CinemaCon Report Card: Scorsese and ‘Barbie’ Impress, ‘Wonka’ Confounds and Christopher Nolan Takes Big Swing

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Hollywood’s major studios came to Sin City last week hoping to dazzle movie theater owners with the next wave of sequels, superhero adventures and even, gasp, a few movies aimed at adults. The occasion was CinemaCon, the annual exhibition industry conference, and for the first time in years, there was a celebratory air to the whole affair.

That’s because the box office is beginning to rebound to pre-pandemic form, thanks to hits like “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and “Avatar: The Way of Water.” But if the good times are going to keep rolling, Hollywood needs to ante up with compelling movies to keep audiences coming back to multiplexes.

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Based on what they brought to Las Vegas, some studios have a much better hand than others. Here’s a look back on the surefire hits, the potential disasters and the gambles that might just pay off.


What Scored: After riding high with “Top Gun: Maverick” and hits in nearly every genre, Paramount looks to score again with families (“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”), horror buffs (“A Quiet Place Day One”), music lovers (“Bob Marley: One Love”) and … everyone (“Mission: Impossible 7”). Plus, Scorsese’s starry “Killers of the Flower Moon” looks like the kind of captivating epic that could actually entice the hard-to-impress demographic of older audiences. Also, Rihanna (in her third trimester, no less) surprised at the Colosseum to announce her life-long dream come true to voice a “little blue badass” in “The Smurfs” movie.
What Missed: Prequels are never easy sells, and audiences stopped caring about the Autobots and the Decepticons long before “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” geared up to hit theaters.
Grade: A


What Scored: Jennifer Lawrence’s over-the-top comedy “No Hard Feelings” looks genuinely hilarious. Can she revive the genre that hasn’t really delivered since Amy Schumer’s R-rated “Trainwreck”? And the animated “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” looks like another win for Miles Morales in one of the many universes of everyone’s favorite neighborhood web-slinger.
What Missed: “Kraven the Hunter,” the first R-rated entry in Sony’s universe of Marvel characters, seems more in the vein of “Morbius” than “Venom” in terms of commercial appeal. And Ridley Scott’s historical epic “Napoleon” may land plenty of Oscars love, but the initial footage of a snowy battle looked, in a word, gray.
Grade: B


What Scored: With the sweeping, grim first look at “The Hunger Games” prequel “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” it certainly looks like the odds are ever in the studio’s favor.
What Missed: There’s not much to judge, since Lionsgate only showed footage from “Songbirds and Snakes” before pivoting to showcase a screening of the raunchy “Joy Ride.” But three cheers for investing in original R-rated comedies!
Grade: C+

Warner Bros.

What Scored: Let’s get one thing out of the way: “The Flash,” contrary to what every WB executive has shouted from the rooftops, is not the greatest comic book movie of all time. But the superhero adventure, which screened in its entirety for the first time, got a lot of love from fans in attendance. Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” a cotton-candy hued adaptation of the popular kids’ toy, seems like pure, campy fun. “The Color Purple,” a lavish adaptation of the stage musical, could be a real heartbreaker and Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune Part II” is epic in every sense of the word.
What Missed: “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” struck us as a bit water-logged, “The Meg 2” had all the creative spark of a cash grab, and Timothee Chalamet’s musical adventure “Wonka” could be magical or WTF?
Grade: B+


What Scored: From blockbusters like “Fast X” to animated fare like “Kung Fu Panda 4” and indies such as Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers,” Universal may have the richest and most varied slate of movies of any studio. Also, “The Exorcist Believer” seems genuinely terrifying and should leave audiences’ heads spinning like Linda Blair’s.
What Missed: Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt in the action-comedy “The Fall Guy” is a tonal mess and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” could be a masterpiece, but will people show up to see a movie about the making of the atomic bomb…in the summer?
Grade: A-


What Scored: “The Little Mermaid” star Melissa McCarthy slayed with her campy take on Ursula’s signature “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” “Indy 5” looked more like “Raiders” than “Crystal Skull.” And “Elemental” has the makings of an “Inside Out”-style crowd-pleaser.
What Missed: Disney already hosts its own conventions like D23 and Star Wars Celebration to tout its blockbuster-hopefuls. So much of its presentation was devoted to screening Stephen King’s “The Boogeyman,” a genre that’s as far removed from the studio’s squeaky clean sweet-spot as it gets. And honestly, most of the rest looked pretty meh, including “The Marvels,” which seemed stale, and “Wish,” a Disney animated film so generic, it might have been written by ChatGPT.
Grade: B-

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