Buzzing for Blade Runner 2049, wowed by Wonder Woman: major releases teased at CinemaCon

The annual, four-day trade convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners has become a major event teasing the upcoming North American summer blockbuster and fall awards season, as well as an important venue to unveil and champion new projects.

Emotional speeches, eye-popping visuals and even song-and-dance routines took centre stage. Here are some highlights.

To be continued

Hollywood shows no sign of franchise fatigue. with a large portion of the slate showcasing sequels, reboots and revivals. 

Canadian director Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 (out Oct. 6) led the pack as one of cinema's most anticipated fall releases, with star Ryan Gosling popping into Las Vegas to discuss the still secretive apocalyptic sequel.

"Prepare to start going steady with the edge of your seats," the Canadian actor told the audience.

Fresh looks at the forthcoming Wonder Woman (June 2), Justice League (Nov. 17) and Aquaman (Dec. 21, 2018) impressed the industry crowd, while previews of Kingsman: The Golden Circle and War for the Planet of the Apes were enthusiastically received.

But more terrifying, apparently, was the violent, bloody and graphic new sequences of the extraterrestrial creatures from Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant (May 19).

Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 6), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (May 26) and Transformers: The Last Knight (June 23) also offered expanded looks into their continuing stories.

Elsewhere, former U.S. vice-president and Nobel laureate Al Gore showed off a full trailer An Inconvenient Sequel (July 28), the follow-up to his Oscar-winning documentary hit An Inconvenient Truth.

"It was Paul Walker who promised eight.... It played over and over again in my brain," Diesel said. 

"Part of Paul's legacy lives through every frame that we shoot," he continued, fighting back tears. "I always feel like he's looking down on us so we didn't want to let him down."

Meanwhile, current series co-star Johnson popped up in multiple sessions, including to promote the kids adventure sequel Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Dec. 22).

"We wanted to make a movie that was not only phenomenal, not only paid homage to the original, but something that had evolved, something that could be global, something that could be fun," Johnson said.

Adaptations on the way

Johnson's outsized personality was also on show when championing the risqué adventure-comedy Baywatch (May 26) — an R-rated take on the cheesy but popular TV series that's part of a fresh wave of movie adaptations.

Theatre owners and exhibitors also got a taste of several forthcoming projects with literary origins: the Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey-led The Dark Tower (July 28), Kenneth Branagh's star-studded Murder on the Orient Express (Nov. 22) and Ferdinand (Dec. 15), with wrestler John Cena voicing the titular bull in this tale inspired by the 1930s children's book The Story of Ferdinand. 

A charm offensive 

A favourite of exhibitors for his vigorous championing of the big-screen theatrical experience, Inception and The Dark Knight filmmaker Christopher Nolan delighted the audience by unveiling new footage from his Second World War epic Dunkirk (July 21) that was described as "stunning" and "visceral" by many CinemaCon attendees, who reportedly rewarded him with a standing ovation.

"This movie is about taking risks ... and that is what is going to propel this business," Jackman said.

"There's not one person in this room who didn't love movies more than anything else and wish that one day they could be in this business," he declared at a presentation that ended with people singing and dancing in the aisles.

Studios also teased potential awards season prospects, trotting out the likes of George Clooney, Matt Damon and Julianne Moore to preview more serious fare like Downsizing (Nov. 22) from Alexander Payne, Clooney's Suburbicon (Nov. 3) and Wonderstruck (TBA).

An industry in flux

The group also discussed the need to increase audiences by targeting younger and more diverse moviegoers. Millennials comprise 55 per cent of frequent moviegoers, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners.

The association also noted that Hispanic consumers were the most frequent U.S. moviegoers in relation to their population numbers and that attendance by African-Americans and Asian-Americans has grown in recent years.