Universal Fires Up CineEurope With New Michael Jackson Biopic Footage, Gives ‘Wicked’ Major Push

Universal bookended its presentation at the 2024 edition of CineEurope with the Wicked Witch of the West and the King of Pop.

Returning to the trade show in Barcelona buoyed by confidence after claiming 2023’s studio crown with a box office of almost $5 billion globally, the number one animation in “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and the best picture Oscar for “Oppenheimer,” the company teased its busy slate of upcoming titles with plenty of footage and behind-the-scenes material.

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Much of the presentation was devoted to “Wicked,” the highly-anticipated adaptation of the hit stage musical that is eyeing to become one of the cultural events of this Christmas period when it launches at the end of November. The film, directed by Jon M. Chu and starring Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande, is getting a major global push by the studio, which brought various original costumes from the production to showcase to the exhibitors gathered in Barcelona.

At the end of its presentation, Universal gave the audience an unexpected treat by turning to “Michael,” the Michael Jackson biopic being directed by Antoine Fuqua with Graham King — who was behind “Bohemian Rhapsody” — producing. Surprising new material from the film was shown, including a scene featuring the shooting of the “Thriller” music video, with Jaafar Jackson — Michael Jackson’s nephew — in the lead role (and iconic red leather jacket). King, who was in attendance and introduced the clips, noted that the movie had only recently wrapped, with some of the footage being shown having been filmed just three weeks ago.

Elsewhere, extended footage was shown from the upcoming live-action “How to Train Your Dragon,” the Pharrell Williams animated Lego biopic “Piece by Piece,” Robert Eggers’ reimagining of the vampire classic “Nosferatu,” DreamWorks Animation’s “The Wild Robot” and the werewolf horror “Wolf Man,” plus clips from soon-to-be released titles such as the Blumhouse horror “Speak No Evil,” Ti West’s franchise finale “MaXXXine” and “Despicable Me 4.” Universal also gave shout outs to two returning franchise favourites currently in production in “Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy” and “Downton Abbey 3.”

“While we look at our industry in the rearview mirror, I would like to take a brief moment to acknowledge that we are still in unprecedented times,” said Niels Swinkels, executive vice president and managing director of Universal Pictures International, speaking on stage. “More recently, uncertainty has resurfaced about cinemagoers’ choices and the state of the theatrical marketplace. But let’s not let that get in the way of striving for growth. We will prove the naysayers wrong again. Now is the time to invest in the theatrical experience, have faith, double down, take risks and chase success.”

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