‘Hobbit’ preview divides CinemaCon auds

WB also shows 'Dark Knight Rises,' 'Campaign' footage

LAS VEGAS – Warner Bros. and Peter Jackson set frames racing Tuesday at CinemaCon, but did exhibs’ hearts beat faster? Maybe not so much.

Exhibs and press who gathered at Caesars Palace for WB’s presentation — including 10 minutes of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” — were decidedly mixed over what they saw of the pic’s 48 frames-per-second format, which James Cameron championed at last year’s confab but won’t arrive in theaters until the first half of Jackson’s adaptation, due Dec. 14.

Exhibitors would need at least software-level projection upgrades to show the format, and while the footage presented a dark and intriguing vision for the “Lord of the Rings” origin story, not all were enamored of the look of the doubletime frame rate.

The “Hobbit” reel looked distinctively sharper and more immediate than everything shown before it, giving the 3D smoother movement and crisp sharpness, while losing the cinematic glow of the industry-standard 24 fps. The realism gave CG characters a distinct presence, but human actors seemed overlit and amplified in a way that many compared to modern sports broadcasts (as high as 60 fps in HD) and daytime television.

“It reminds me of when I first saw Blu-Ray, in that it takes away that warm feeling of film,” said one owner of a midsized, Western-states exhib chain. “It looked to me like a behind-the-scenes featurette.”

Jackson has eight months to address imperfections in what is sure to be a rigorous post-production, given what’s at stake for public acceptance of faster projection.

While the demonstration was the talk of Caesars, Warner Bros. brought other major product to the Colosseum stage. The studio showed off explosive footage from “The Dark Knight Rises,” with Christopher Nolan on hand to introduce, and put Will Ferrell-Zach Galifianakis laffer “The Campaign” on the radar with a well-received reel. “Rock of Ages” director Adam Shankman came out to tout the upcoming tuner, while Tim Burton talked at length about Johnny Depp starrer “Dark Shadows.”

Depp came, too, and joined Burton onstage to say all of two words as the house went dark: “Have fun.”

Warner also showed a healthy amount of footage from “The Great Gatsby,” which director Baz Luhrmann admitted via a videotaped message he wasn’t quite ready to do. Though the several minutes of lavish sets and whirling parties from the 1920s period drama were apparently raw, untouched footage, the cinematic scope of the 3D largely impressed the CinemaCon crowd, immediately drawing comparisons to Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo.”

Paramount kicked off CinemaCon the night before with its slate presentation. Though its relationship with DreamWorks Animation is still in limbo, DWA threequel “Madagascar 3” and all-new toon “The Guardians” made up the backbone of Par’s presentation, with Jeffrey Katzenberg onstage to present what he called “one of the most original and unique movies we’ve ever made at DreamWorks.”

Par also debuted footage from “One Shot,” its adaptation of Lee Child’s novels featuring towering antihero Jack Reacher, played by Tom Cruise. Thesp wasn’t in attendance but said via videoconference, “I’m obviously not six-foot-five, but (the filmmakers) felt I was the right guy to drive fast cars and kick the shit out of people.”

As he often does, Sacha Baron Cohen stole the show, arriving in character as Shabazz Aladeen after footage from his upcoming “The Dictator” unspooled (Par screened the pic later that night). Cohen used the opportunity to unleash a mini-roast on many in attendance — and nothing was sacred. “I thought I was going to be the only dictator in attendance,” he said. “Imagine my surprise when I saw that Jeffrey Katzenberg is here.”

He also took a shot at Disney, explaining that when one of his movies bombs, his response is to just “shoot the executive,” suggesting that they do the same for “John Carter.”

“Oh wait — they already did!” he said, drawing huge laughs (and equal groans).

Disney was set to make its presentation later Tuesday, with Sony going Wednesday and U and Fox taking their turns Thursday, marking the first time in a decade that all six majors participated in the Las Vegas confab.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Rita And Tom Hanks Coronavirus

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Return to U.S. After Coronavirus Diagnosis in Australia

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are back home in the U.S. after they revealed they had contracted coronavirus and were quarantined in Australia. Hanks gave an update on Twitter Saturday morning, thanking everyone who had helped them in Australia and assuring people that they are still isolating themselves in the U.S. “Hey, folks…We’re home now [...]

  • Film Comment Magazine Goes on Hiatus

    Film Comment Magazine to Go on Hiatus as Film at Lincoln Center Lays Off Half of Staff

    Many companies are being financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Film at Lincoln Center is the latest organization to have to lay off employees and pause some of their operations. On Friday, executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing that the center had to furlough or lay off about half of its [...]

  • "Birds of Prey" egg sandwich

    'Birds of Prey' Actor Bruno Oliver Recreates Harley Quinn's Famous Sandwich

    When actor Bruno Oliver booked the role of short order cook Sal in “Birds of Prey: (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” he had no idea how significant Sal and his breakfast sandwich were to the story. “You couldn’t tell from the audition necessarily and as actors, we always worry about our scenes [...]

  • Minyan

    'Minyan': Film Review

    Best known for the unexpectedly soul-shattering San Francisco suicide doc “The Bridge,” indie filmmaker Eric Steel came out and came of age in 1980s New York at a moment just before AIDS devastated the city’s gay community. Such timing must have been surreal, to assume something so liberating about one’s own identity, only to watch [...]

  • Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches

    Film New Roundup: Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches North American Distribution

    In today’s film news roundup, “The Queen’s Corgi” finds a home, the Overlook Film Festival is postponed and the California Film Commission adjusts its tax credit rules due to the coronavirus. ACQUISITION Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to the animated family comedy feature “The Queen’s Corgi,” and plans to make it available on DVD and to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content