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‘Beetlejuice,’ ‘Joker’ sequels delight audiences at CinemaCon

Updated April 10, 2024 - 6:27 pm

A couple of unlikely big-budget sequels stole the show Tuesday evening during the first full day of CinemaCon, just hours after attendees were warned that, when it comes to smaller movies, it could become a case of love them or lose them.

New footage from “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice” and the world premiere of the “Joker: Folie à Deux” trailer had the Colosseum audience buzzing during the annual gathering of the National Association of Theatre Owners at Caesars Palace.

Tim Burton, Michael Keaton and Catherine O”Hara met up on the stage — “like a weird family reunion,” Burton quipped — to talk about September’s followup to the 1988 comedy. They were joined by new cast members Willem Dafoe, Monica Bellucci and Justin Theroux.

Todd Phillips, who knows his way around Caesars Palace thanks to directing the “Hangover” trilogy, was asked about rumors that the sequel to 2019’s dark “Joker” is actually a musical. “I like to say it’s a movie where music is an essential element,” he said of the October release.

CinemaCon is a supersized combo of a convention, trade show and pep rally where, for part of a week, studios forget all about streaming, and the magic of seeing movies in theaters is celebrated the way only they and Nicole Kidman can.

It’s also where movie theater owners and executives from more than 80 countries gather to meet with distribution leaders, see the latest in theater technology and watch as Hollywood heavyweights introduce footage of their upcoming films.

For a gathering of people whose bank accounts typically live or die with the next sequel or installment of a record-breaking franchise, CinemaCon stood up for the little guy.

Or, at least, the medium-sized guy.

“It is not enough to rely solely on blockbusters,” said Michael O’Leary, president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners. “We must have a strong and vibrant market for movies with smaller or medium-sized budgets.”

Citing recent success stories such as “The Holdovers,” “American Fiction” and “Godzilla Minus Zero,” O’Leary said during his morning state of the industry address, “If these movies are not supported by all of us, there will be fewer of them.”

His remarks in the Colosseum were preceded by a montage of scenes from 2023’s biggest movies, many of which missed the mark at the box office. A number of usually reliable franchises, including “Fast and Furious,” “Mission: Impossible” and “Indiana Jones,” underperformed at the box office. Superhero tentpoles “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania,” “The Marvels,” “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” and “The Flash,” the latter of which held its first public screening with great fanfare at last year’s CinemaCon, ranged from flops to outright bombs.

O’Leary also spoke about the need for more bright spots like “Barbenheimer.” The seemingly once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon saw the disparate “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” — both of which debuted footage at CinemaCon before opening on the same day — combine for $2.4 billion at the worldwide box office.

Tuesday’s Warner Bros. presentation also included post-apocalyptic mastermind George Miller unveiling several minutes of “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” alongside stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth. In the prequel, scheduled for May, Taylor-Joy takes over the title character, who was introduced in 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” from Charlize Theron while Hemsworth portrays the wild-eyed and even wilder-bearded warlord Dementus.

Writer-director Kevin Costner spoke about “Horizon: An American Saga,” the sprawling Western he has been trying to make since 1988. The first two installments of the four-part saga are scheduled to arrive in theaters in June and August. Costner later accepted CinemaCon’s Visionary Award and was visibly moved by the standing ovation he received.

Robert Pattinson accompanied director Bong Joon-ho (“Parasite,” “Snowpiercer”) with footage of the long-anticipated sci-fi extravaganza “Mickey 17,” which is due in January.

And it was something of a family affair as M. Night Shyamalan introduced a trailer for his latest, “Trap.” Earlier, his daughter Ishana Night Shyamalan showed footage from her directorial debut, “The Watchers.”

Presentations by Lionsgate and Universal/Focus will follow on Wednesday, with Paramount and Disney rounding out Thursday. Sony Pictures is skipping the gathering, but its anime subsidiary, Crunchyroll, presented. Angel Studios, the Utah-based distributor whose “Sound of Freedom” was a sleeper hit last summer, also is on the schedule.

CinemaCon is taking place amid an already-challenging year for moviegoing.

In March, a poll by HarrisX found that just 34 percent of American adults prefer to watch movies in theaters.

The 2023 strikes by Hollywood writers and actors shuttered filmmaking for six months, delaying movies including the latest “Mission: Impossible” and “Avatar” sequels from this year until next. “Captain America: Brave New World” and “Thunderbolts” were pushed to next year, as well, as part of a major Marvel Studios reshuffling.

Based on data from Box Office Mojo, despite having 21 more releases, the total domestic box office for the first three months of 2024 was down 6.7 percent, or $114.8 million, from the first quarter of 2023.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on X.

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