Warner Bros. Floods Film Zone, But Batman, Superman and ‘Beasts’ Are a Year Away

Warner Brothers presents Batman v Superman,
Getty Images/Michael Buckner

From male strippers to apocalyptic road warriors, Warner Bros. unloaded a slate packed with a diverse range of films that it hopes pack in audiences at CinemaCon on Tuesday.

The studio promises to deliver in quantity even if it falls short of quality. This summer alone, Warner Bros. will unveil eight films, a massive figure in an age in which studios are dramatically scaling back the number of productions they greenlight.

Paramount for instance, which presented its pared-down slate to exhibitors earlier in the day, will host a quarter of that amount.

“People still want to go to the movies,” said Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara. “We made a strategic decision to continue making more movies at a time when other studios are making less.”

Though pictures such as the earthquake thriller “San Andreas” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” drew hearty applause from the crowd of theater owners, 2015 promises to be something of a bridge year for the studio.

In his pitch to theater owners, Tsujihara highlighted the three major brands that he hopes will enable Warner Bros. to compete with the likes of Disney, which overflows with top-shelf projects from its inhouse “big three” (Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar). Warner Bros. and Tsujihara are banking on roughly two films a year from its DC Comics division, the first of which, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad,” drop in 2016. That will be augmented with three “Lego” sequels for kids and three “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” movies for Harry Potter fans.

“We’re already working on your blockbusters for the next five years,” said Tsujihara.

But that promise won’t materialize for nearly 12 months, leaving Warner Bros. unloading a vast range of star and special-effects driven pictures that hearken back to an earlier era when the name above the marquee was enough to sell a film.

“While tentpoles and franchises are important to us…they’re just one part of what we do,” Tsujihara stressed.

Instead, he explained, Warner Bros. will focus on “broad and underserved audiences that create the opportunity for breakout hits.” That strategy paid off in January, when “American Sniper” brought out “red state” crowds in force and became the biggest box office success of director Clint Eastwood’s career.

It’s a gameplan that carries risks, however. Theater owners laughed along with the R-rated antics of “Vacation,” with the trailer offering up a buffet of rim job and glory hole jokes, and “Black Mass,” with Johnny Depp, looked like the kind of crime drama that could resonate with adult crowds.

“Man From U.N.C.L.E.” was more of an enigma. Based on footage that screened Tuesday, it’s a stylish spy romp, but the bet seems to be that moviegoers will really, really want to see an update of a show that’s more than five decades old.

Footage from “Hot Pursuit,” a retread of “The Heat” with Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon, on the other hand, landed with a thud. Likewise, the crowd seemed more puzzled about the need for a “Point Break” remake than it was stimulated by footage of extreme-sports loving bank robbers not played by Keanu Reeves or Patrick Swayze.

And just because a film doesn’t boast a Batman or Superman doesn’t mean it doesn’t carry a big pricetag. “Pan,” a reimagining of the Peter Pan story, presented a dreamy, fantastical Neverland that is a feast for the eyes, but must have required massive expenditures. This week, Warner Bros. moved the title out of the summer season into October, where it can avoid heavy competition from the likes of “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” and “Minions.”

The studio isn’t turning its back on sequels. “Magic Mike XXL” drew catcalls when Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer and the rest of the washboard-abbed cast hit the stage to introduce footage.

At one point, Tatum appeared to be about to disrobe, provoking scattered wails of ecstasy, before his hand stopped just short of his fly.

“Never give away for free what they’re going to pay for,” said Tatum.

Based on the reaction, they’ll be willing to shell out for what the film’s promotional hashtag pitched as a #secondcoming.

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