Sony’s opening night presentation at CinemaCon 2023 wasn’t quite the mic-drop moment of its 2021 presentation—where Tom Rothman, Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, memorably took the stage in defense of theatrical exclusivity. It wasn’t the victory lap of its 2022 presentation when the studio returned to the Las Vegas convention for a victory lap over the record-setting grosses of Spider-Man: No Way Home. Sony’s 2023 presentation wasn’t there to build confidence in theatrical, as its two prior showcases did, instead confirming its resolve in a sector of the industry that its long regarded as a valuable partner.
Josh Greenstein, Co-President of the Motion Picture Group at Sony Pictures Entertainment, took the stage on the opening night of CinemaCon 2023 reminding attendees that his studio never wavered its commitment to theatrical during the pandemic—sticking to a traditional theatrical exclusivity window and supporting films with marketing campaigns designed to drive audiences to theaters. “And now other studios realize the value of exclusive theatrical windows and are reversing course. Now, even some streamers are giving their best films exclusive theatrical runs,” said Greenstein. “Oh, how the times have changed.”
Sony is planning on releasing 23 films exclusively to theaters in 2023, showcasing a diverse slate of genres, popular franchises, and star-driven original films to keep audiences coming back to the movies. Among the standout films of the Sony presentation was Craig Gillespie’s Dumb Money, giving off strong vibes of 2015’s The Big Short, in telling the story of the GameStop retail investor craze. Paul Dano stars in the film, which screened around 5 minutes of footage to a receptive CinemaCon crowd. R-rated romantic comedies No Hard Feelings, starring Jennifer Lawrence, and Anyone But You, with Glenn Powell and Sydney Sweeney, kept the tone upbeat throughout the presentation…and confirmed that adult audiences looking for alternatives to major franchises at the movies will have some options from Sony in the coming months.
Sony didn’t shy away from sharing first looks at upcoming entries from film franchises in its stable either. Director Antoine Fuqua shared the stage with frequent collaborator Denzel Washington to introduce early footage of The Equalizer 3—a dependable mid-range franchise that has grossed nearly $400 million across its first two entries and entered into the it’s-always-on-cable after-life that only a rarified few action films seem to attain these days. Blumhouse horror title Insidious: The Red Door also received some stage-time, along with the videogame title Gran Turismo, action franchise Bad Boys 4 (currently in production), and the upcoming (and still untitled) NYC-set Ghostbusters Afterlife sequel scheduled for Christmas.
Sony’s Spider-Man was once again the main course of its studio presentation at CinemaCon. Co-director Kemp Powers took the stage with voice talent Shameik Moore (Miles Morales); Hailee Steinfeld (Gwen Stacy); Issa Rae (Jessica Drew) to introduce a very promising 14 minutes of footage that elicited a strong reaction from the audience. Even more surprising was an advance look at footage from Kraven the Hunter, part of Sony’s Spider-Man villain universe, which promises to be a sharp departure from the campy tone of its Venom and Morbius titles. CinemaCon delegates got to see a first look at bone-crushing action sequences from the film, which was revealed would carry an R-rating upon release during the Sony presentation.
The studio closed the presentation by screening parts of an epic battle sequence from Ridley Scott’s upcoming Napoleon, an Apple title that will be distributed theatrically by Sony this Fall. Prior to this year, Apple reportedly spent a record sum to acquire CODA at Sundance 2021 and subsequently launch a (successful) Best Picture campaign later that year—all without seemingly putting any legitimate effort into getting audiences to see its Oscar-winning film in theaters. By the looks of it, Apple will be reversing course this year with Napoleon. “From among many suitors, [Apple] have chosen Sony to partner for the theatrical release of Ridley Scott’s action epic Napoleon,” said Rothman on stage at CinemaCon, speaking of the film as a potential awards-season contender. “The film will be released worldwide at Thanksgiving with a robust theatrical window and a full-throttle marketing campaign before moving to AppleTV+.”
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