Warner Bros. came to Las Vegas to put on a show.
The studio dropped big news Tuesday from the CinemaCon stage inside the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, first announcing that Matt Reeves, Robert Pattinson and the creative team will be back for a sequel to The Batman. That announcement was followed by exclusive looks at Elvis, Wonka, The Flash, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, Salem’s Lot and Don’t Worry Darling.
Warners gave Elvis a big chunk of the early part of the program to Elvis for an extensive Q&A featuring Baz Luhrmann and his star Austin Butler. Luhrmann was welcomed to the stage by host Aisha Tyler for a lively chat during which he was asked why he tackled the story of the American icon. “I love biopic[s], this is not really a biopic,” he said. “It’s really about America in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s. At the center of culture, for the good, the bad and the ugly, it was Elvis Presley.”
Directed by Luhrmann, Elvis casts Butler in the title role as the King of Rock ‘n Roll. Debuting the footage in Sin City carries special significance as the town was Presley’s old stomping grounds. Tom Hanks also stars in Elvis as Colonel Tom Parker and the film (shot in Australia by DP Mandy Walker who worked on Australia) is weeks away from its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, which will deliver a triumphant homecoming for Luhrmann who screened his Moulin Rouge there.
Luhrmann, who confirmed that his film features classics and the story of Elvis translated for a younger generation, said the narrative unfolds through the prism of Tom Parker, played by Hanks, someone he joked was a newcomer. “He’s a bit nervy and stuff, I had to coach him a lot to get him out of his shell,” he quipped. Then he got serious with compliments: “I have worked with everyone, all sorts of icons and my god, Tom Hanks — the Rolls Royce of actors.”
Butler was quizzed on his response to getting cast as Presley as well as his process for preparing to both play him and sing his classic hits. Butler said he set out to find his humanity. “He’s one of those individuals who has been lifted up to superhuman. He’s almost a wallpaper of society,” he explained Butler (who sings all of young Elvis in the film confirmed Luhrmann). “It started with absorbing as much as I could. Then sort of broke it into the periods of time because his voice changed…and his movement changed and his singing style changed. It was finding the time periods.”
Luhrmann praised Reeves and The Batman and said that he thinks of Presley as a superhero and his film like a superhero film. “Elvis is the original superhero. He comes from dirt and in a few blinding moments, rises so high, finds his kryptonite and falls so low.”
During the extended footage, Hanks character is heard saying, “In that moment, Elvis the man was sacrificed and Elvis the God was born” during an electric performance of Presley’s “Trouble” after which he was evacuated from the stage in a clash with his audience and police. “He had no idea what he had done,” Parker says again.
Speaking of singing, Timothee Chalamet debuted warbling a few tunes in the exclusive footage of Wonka, the first clips ever seen. Wonka, hitting theaters on Dec. 15, 2023, stars Chalamet as the character created by author Roald Dahl and played by Gene Wilder in the classic Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971). Paddington filmmaker Paul King is directing, with Rowan Atkinson, Sally Hawkins, Keegan-Michael Key and Olivia Colman also starring.
“Is everybody ready,” Chalamet’s Wonka says via voiceover in the opening moments. What follows appears to be a fantastical adventure filled with singing, dancing, clashes with authorities in a quest to spread chocolate to the world. “Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Willy Wonka.” As for Chalamet’s voice, he’s heard singing, “You have never had chocolate like this,” before he breaks out of a choreographed dance and heads down a pothole.
Wild crashes, a bending universe, young Superman, and a throwback Batman — Michael Keaton — drew cheers as a brief trailer for The Flash was shown at the Warner Bros. Showcase at CinemaCon on Tuesday.
The biggest reaction came towards the end of the clip, when Ezra Miller’s Flash asks the question “Are you in?” Then we see Keaton, sans mask, with grayish hair, who retorts in his deadpan style: “You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts.”
The Flash, due out in June 2023, is one of the longest gestating DC projects, with Miller first cast as the hero back in 2014 for Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. A number of directors came and went on the project, which finally got off the ground with It filmmaker Andy Muschietti taking the helm. The film will mark Michael Keaton’s first time playing Batman since 1992’s Batman Returns, while Ben Affleck also reprises his role as The Dark Knight for the film that deals with multiple timelines. The project will also introduce Supergirl, played by Sasha Calle.
But The Flash has been dogged in recent weeks by the troubles of its star. Miller has been arrested twice in Hawaii, first in late March for charges of disorderly conduct and harassment following an alleged incident at a karaoke bar. The second was just days ago when Miller was booked on suspicion of second-degree assault, according to the Hawaii Island Police Department.
The commitment to the theatrical experience proved to be a running theme during the presentation as Warner Bros. release strategy became a hot-button topic in Hollywood as the studio switched to day-and-date amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And all eyes have been on the studio after it was acquired by Discovery, now led by David Zaslav and he was mentioned several times throughout the program.
Warners Motion Picture chairman Toby Emmerich spoke early on, by saying, “It’s good to be back and believe me when I tell you, we missed you so much.” He said that Warner Bros. Discovery leader David Zaslav sends his regrets for not appearing at the convention in person. “He had earnings,” Emmerich noted. “I can tell you he is a man who loves movies. He has a genuine passion for the movie industry.”
Hollywood studios and cinema operators are gathered together this week in Las Vegas for CinemaCon, the annual convention hosted by the National Association of Theatre Owners. This year is especially crucial for exhibitors as they try to emerge from the ravages of the COVID-19 crisis and compete with streamers.
CinemaCon was canceled altogether in 2020, while last year’s event was a pared-down version held in late August, versus its traditional late spring slot. This year, all five major Hollywood studios plus Lionsgate and Neon are touting their upcoming slates during their time on stage inside the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. CinemaCon 2022 runs April 25-28.