Paramount is riding incredibly high after their 2022 box office grosses rose past $1 billion for the first time in over a decade and kept its momentum going at CinemaCon with plenty of exciting announcements and sneak peeks.
But before all of that, Chris Aronson showed up to give a little spoonful of tough love.
In his time as head of domestic distribution at 20th Century Fox and now at Paramount, Aronson has been known at CinemaCon both for his humorous entrances at studio presentations and his very candid takes on the movie theater business. This year saw more of both as Aronson emerged from a sewer manhole with some pizza to promote “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” prompting the film’s writer-producer Seth Rogen to joke that it was “quite appropriate” to see a Hollywood exec doing that.
But after delivering the pizza to the audience, Aronson gave a brief speech in which he thanked movie theaters for helping make movies like last year’s record-breaking “Top Gun: Maverick” possible. But he also challenged them to introduce strategies that will make moviegoing more affordable for customers.
Specifically, Aronson wants theaters to introduce variable pricing, selling tickets for some non-tentpole movies at matinee prices for all screenings. This was a strategy that Paramount experimented with earlier this year with the comedy “80 for Brady” which grossed just under $40 million at the box office
“We can’t create any friction that prevents audiences from coming to see our movies in your theaters. We need to be realistic and acknowledge that pre-COVID, admissions were only going down and ticket prices were only going up,” Aronson said. “Why not make audiences offers they can’t refuse?”
The topic of ticket prices is one that executives at the National Association of Theater Owners does not talk about, with questions about pricing rejected during the organization’s press conference on Tuesday. But that hasn’t stopped Aronson from publicly talking about the concept, leading to a spirited debate between the studio exec and NATO chairman Rolando Rodriguez during a panel in 2021.
While that debate won’t go away anytime soon, Aronson turned the audience’s attention to Paramount’s slate of upcoming films that he hopes will allow the studio to meet last year’s domestic total of $1.3 billion, as led by “Top Gun: Maverick” with $718 million.
Of course, Tom Cruise is once again providing the tentpole for Paramount with “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning.” While the star was not at CinemaCon to receive a hero’s welcome from movie execs, Paramount did show off an extended car chase featuring the star and Hayley Atwell in the streets of Rome.
But a studio can’t live off of Cruise alone, and Paramount is showing its plans to diversify its theatrical slate. Ramsey Naito, who has been working with the animation teams at Paramount and Nickelodeon, gave the crowd a taste of what is in store with theatrical films based on “Paw Patrol,” “Spongebob Squarepants,” “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and the first animated “Transformers” film since 1986.
Rihanna also showed up to announce that she would voice Smurfette in an upcoming “Smurfs” animated movie and provide original music for the film. John Krasinski will also make a family film for Paramount with “IF,” starring Ryan Reynolds in a movie about imaginary friends, along with another harrowing installment of “A Quiet Place” starring Lupita Nyong’o.
But the loudest applause went to New Hollywood icon Martin Scorsese, who introduced the trailer for “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Like Sony’s Ridley Scott film “Napoleon,” the project is a partnership between a legacy studio and Apple Original Films, signaling how the lines between old-school Hollywood and the streaming newcomers are starting to blur.