CinemaCon 2017 Studio Presentations: WARNER BROS.

Christopher Nolan Defends Theatrical Exhibition, Captivates Crowd with 'Dunkirk' Combat Sequence in Warner Bros. CinemaCon 2017 Presentation

Christopher Nolan isn’t known for making too many promotional appearances, let alone sharing advance looks at his upcoming projects. CinemaCon attendees only have to look back to the 2014 edition of the event, where Nolan sat down for an extended conversation ahead of the release of Interstellar but refrained from showing any actual footage of the film. That was not the case this year.

Nolan appeared in person to offer his commitment to the exhibition industry as talks around release window continue to swirl in the press. “The only platform I’m interested in talking about is theatrical exhibition,” said the director, who shot his latest film, Dunkirk, entirely in large format celluloid. Nolan has been a big proponent of IMAX technology with his tent-pole, and he cites Dunkirk as the first time he feels he’s used IMAX cameras to their full potential. Talking about the film, Nolan called the project more of a survival story than a war movie. “To me, it’s the ultimate suspense story,” he shared. “I wanted to tell the story in the most visceral way possible,” promising to immerse the viewer as much as possible to the events developing on screen. If that sounds vague, all questions were answered with the exclusive screening of an entire combat sequence, captivating the entire auditorium. The heart-pounding footage had an intimate, first-person feel and helped raise already high expectations for the title.

Warner Bros. followed Nolan by screening clips of horror titles Annabelle: Creation and It along with the jilted-lover thriller Unforgettable. A look at comedies Bastards and The House helped lighten the mood significantly, with footage from both titles eliciting approving laughs from the audience. Footage from The House, a comedy about empty-nest parents who decide to run an illicit casino out of their suburban home starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, received arguably the best reception of any comedy previewed at CinemaCon.

Charlie Hunnam, star of Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, introduced footage from the film by stressing Ritchie’s irreverent take on the mythical story. Rather than portraying Arthur as a noble gentleman, Hunnam said the film takes the exact opposite direction, “He’s as far as you can imagine from royalty.” As is customary in Ritchie’s films, Hunnam described the project as “a little bit cheeky, a little bit naughty, and a lot of fun,” with the footage drawing comparisons to Ritchie’s take on the Sherlock Holmes franchise.

Having already made a splash in the week’s first presentation, the CinemaCon audience was treated to a further look at Blade Runner 2049. Warner Bros. will be handling domestic distribution of the film and brought on stage co-star Jared Leto, who called the project one of the biggest honors of his career, “There are very few films in my life that have struck me as deep as the original Blade Runner.”

And then there were the cinematic universes. Warner Bros. showed footage from the upcoming LEGO Ninjago Movie, continuing to ride the wave of the unexpected global success from the first LEGO Movie. The presentation emphasized Warner’s confidence in the franchise; a property that could have plausibly existed as a profitable home video series for the studio has emerged as one of its marquee properties for cinemas.

The unquestionable gem in the Warner Bros. IP arsenal is DC Comics. Rather than taking a producer-focused approach as Disney’s Marvel Films has done, spanning different genres and directors through the supervision of executive Kevin Feige, Warner Bros. has given filmmaker Zack Snyder a pace-setting role in establishing the overall tone of the series. Jason Momoa appeared on stage hours before going on location to being shooting Aquaman, giving the audience a glimpse at animated concept art of the 2018 release. Gal Godot was unable to be present in Las Vegas to introduce Wonder Woman footage but showed her support of the film via a video message —leaving co-star Chris Pine and director Patty Jenkins to pitch the film in person. “It has a Casablanca feel that I don’t think we’ve seen before in this type of universe,” shared Pine before screening a couple of dramatic and action sequences from the film.

Finally, Warner Bros. closed the presentation by presenting a new trailer for Justice League on the big screen, assembling director Zack Snyder and most of the film’s super-ensemble cast for a brief send-off to cap the presentation.

Daniel Loria

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