CinemaCon: STX Touts Luc Besson’s Sci-Fier ‘Valerian’ as a Blockbuster

Two-year-old STX Entertainment is stepping up to the big league as it touts Luc Besson’s sci-fi epic “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” as a blockbuster.

“Valerian” was the centerpiece of STX’s second-ever presentation Tuesday at CinemaCon with footage from a new trailer and in-person appearances by Besson and star Cara Delevingne, who portrays Laureline, with STX Motion Picture Group Chairman Adam Fogelson. The movie opens July 21 against Warner Bros. “Dunkirk,” directed by Christopher Nolan, and Universal’s comedy “Girls Trip.”

STX agreed in January to market and distribute “Valerian” for EuropaCorp Films USA as part of a new, three-year agreement between the two studios — essentially taking the film over from Relativity Media’s bankruptcy and troubled attempts to regain its financial footing.

The trailer, which will be released Wednesday, launched with a desert chase scene with Dane DeHaan’s Valerian and Laureline fending off a monster before being transported into the massively detailed City of a Thousand Planets — which is about to come under attack.

Besson has been developing the project — which carries a $180 million price tag — for decades. It’s based on the Valérian and Laureline comics published by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières in 1967. “I would have to wait each week to reach two more pages,” he recalled.

Besson also credited James Cameron with providing the advances in visual effects in “Avatar” that enabled him to use that technology for “Valerian.”

Fogelson opened the hour-long presentation by noting that staffing  has gone from five to 90 in two years with 10 films released in 19 months. The first title was social-network drama “The Circle,” starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, which opens April 28. “Emma Watson could not be a more perfect representation of her generation,” Fogelson said.

The trailer featured a heart-tugging moment with the late Bill Paxton playing her the terminally ill father. Watson said via a video that her promotion duties for “Beauty and the Beast” prevented her from attending CinemaCon.

Jessica Chastain and Aaron Sorkin later joined Fogelson on stage to promo STX’s legal thriller “Molly’s Game,” based on the Molly Bloom memoir about running a high-stakes poker game. Chastain gushed about the project’s themes  of female empowerment.

“It’s not often when you find a story that’s cool and has a lot of heart,” said Sorkin, who is making his feature directorial debut.  “It’s a lot of fun to tell people a story that they think they know.

Fogelson also announced an untitled Eddie Murphy animated project about Bo the Bull, who decides to his father’s chagrin that he wants to be a rodeo clown.

Mila Kunis appeared to promote the sequel “Bad Moms Christmas,” starting production next month in Atlanta for a  Nov. 3 opening. She evoked major laughs when she responded to Fogelson’s question about the holiday by saying,  “It’s interesting that you ask a Russian refugee what Christmas is like.”

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