Paramount’s presentation at CinemaCon 2023 opened with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-inspired dance sequence on stage at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace. From the depths of the neon-green New York City set on that stage, Chris Aronson, Paramount’s President of Theatrical Distribution, emerged from a smoking sewer holding a pizza box. Somehow, this wasn’t entirely unexpected. The distribution chief has made similarly irreverent entrances to introduce his studio presentations dating back to his days on the same role at 20th Century Fox. At CinemaCon 2023, Aronson had every excuse to take a victory lap at the occasion after launching Top Gun: Maverick to a $718 million domestic haul in 2022, the fifth-highest earning film in Paramount’s history.
Instead, Aronson handed out pizza slices to exhibitors in the audience and went on to talk about one of his favorite topics: ticket prices. At the ICTA Los Angeles Seminar in January, Aronson was part of a roundtable discussion where he warned exhibitors in attendance about the dangers of pricing audiences out as the industry enters its final stage of recovery. He repeated those sentiments during a panel discussion on Monday at CinemaCon.
“The two biggest [titles] on National Cinema Day were family films, DC League of Superpets and Minions: The Rise of Gru, both of which had been in the marketplace for a long time,” he said, referring to the one-day eent in September where all tickets to all films were priced at $3. “Concurrent to that are Tuesday bargain days, where particularly in the summer you see a huge jump in admissions. What does that tell you? What is the learning? My learning is that price sensitivity is an issue—and it’s certainly an issue for families. So follow the trail. Follow the consumer choice.”
It seems counterintuitive to hear the head of distribution of the studio with the biggest movie of 2022 ask exhibitors to charge less for movies, but Aronson has already walked the talk. Earlier this year, Paramount released 80 For Brady with an optional pricing strategy that encouraged participating cinemas to charge matinee prices for the film regardless of the showtime. In his CinemaCon remarks, Aronson emphasized his stance. “. We need to be realistic and acknowledge that pre-COVID theatrical admissions had been going down and ticket prices had only been going up. ,” he said at the start of the Paramount presentation. “That means admitting that the status quo [needs] to be changed. We should be experimenting with variable pricing…let’s give audiences an offer they can’t refuse.”
This year, Paramount will be offering audiences plenty of options at the movies. An animated new take on The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be coming out in August, spearheaded by the creative vision of Seth Rogen. Referring to CinemaCon as “a great place to come if you want to find yourself having an hour-long conversation with a guy who owns a two-screen theater in Wilmington,” Rogen charmed the audience in his remarks before introducing footage of the animated title that garnered a positive response by those in attendance. Paramount will be making a strong investment in animated films over the coming years, highlighting upcoming releases like Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and The SpongeBob Movie: Search for SquarePants in its presentation.
While Rogen’s routine on stage at the Paramount presentation drew laughs, the audience at the Caesars Palace Colosseum broke out in applause when Rihanna came out on stage to introduce details of her involvement in The Smurfs Movie. The singer will be serving as producer, playing Smurfette, and providing original songs for the title which is scheduled for a Valentine’s Day 2025 release.
Paramount also announced the release of the first animated Transformers movie in nearly 40 years with Transformers: One, coming out in July of next year. The studio is hoping for a revival of the Transformers IP with this summer’s release of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. Director Steven Caple Jr. was on hand to introduce footage of the film, set in 1990s New York City.
If the Transformers serve as a legacy franchise for the studio, John Krasinski’s Quiet Place is quietly emerging as a new series with a growing mythology. The writer-director of the first film came on stage during the presentation to introduce footage of the NYC-set prequel A Quiet Place: Day One, directed by Michael Sarnoski. While Krasinski is surrendering directing duties on that prequel, he will be back in the director’s chair for If, starring Ryan Reynolds and Vince Vaughn, which was described by the writer-director as “a live-action Pixar movie.”
Tom Cruise, who has attended the last two editions of CineEurope in Barcelona to promote his recent films, was not in attendance for CinemaCon this year. Instead, audiences got to see a 20-minute action-packed sequence from Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1. Paramount’s confidence in the film is strong enough that the studio announced it would be moving up its domestic release by two days, to Wednesday July 12, shortly after screening the footage at CinemaCon.
Martin Scorsese was arguably the biggest name to be part of the talent on-hand for Paramount’s presentation, showcasing footage from the upcoming Apple title Killers of the Flower Moon, which will be distributed theatrically by Paramount. Scorsese stuck around for a lunchtime conversation, surprisingly moderated by Leonardo DiCaprio in an unannounced appearance following the studio presentation. Footage from the film screened at CinemaCon promises another epic period piece from Scorsese. The director’s last film, The Irishman, was produced by Netflix and only received a limited theatrical release when it came out in 2019. Now working with Apple and Paramount, Killers of the Flower Moon is set to receive a strong marketing for audiences to see the film in theaters. Paramount President & CEO Brian Robbins, speaking earlier in the presentation, emphasizing the studio’s firm belief that “streaming and theatrical are not a zero sum game—we need theatrical to make streaming work.”