6 Things We Learned at CinemaCon 2022

Our CinemaCon team reports on the new normal and why “Top Gun: Maverick” was worth the wait.

The movie-theater industry officially returned to normal at CinemaCon 2022, and we’re leaving Las Vegas with an XL-sized popcorn bucket filled with all the eventizing one can stomach. Here’s what we know after the Monday-Thursday Caesars Palace celebration.

Day-and-Date Is Public Enemy Number One

Thousands of CinemaCon attendees, all with a common goal: Death to the day-and-date release. The exhibitors who packed the Colosseum auditorium have had enough of losing money to streamers. Warner Bros. was the biggest offender; on Tuesday, Warners executives made it exquisitely clear to the theater owners that the HBO Max experiment was a one-and-done to get through Covid.

That Makes Piracy Public Enemy Number Two

If any theater operator needs an argument against day-and-date that isn’t just bitching about the bottom line, may we interest you in the anti-piracy defense? As John Fithian, NATO president & CEO declared, “The simultaneous release is dead as a serious business model, and piracy is what killed it.”

Allowing for hyperbole, it’s a clever argument that makes some sense. It goes like this: In-theater shaky cam won’t find viewers and high-quality piracy is impossible if the pirates can’t rip streaming files.

“Robust theatrical windows protect against piracy,” Fithian said during his State of the Industry speech Tuesday. “If a major title that people are clamoring to see in theaters is released too quickly to the home and then pirated, the temptation to stay home and watch pirated films becomes greater for many potential moviegoers.”

Charlie Rivkin, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association, called those working to combat piracy “the real superheroes,” which makes intellectual property pirates the “real-life mobsters.” He added that revenue generated by piracy “is often folded into other illegal activities like gambling, money laundering, tax evasion, drugs, grand theft auto, and prostitution.” And wouldn’t it better be reinvested into the legitimate film community?

Movies Are Only Part of the Comeback

Theaters sought other ways to monetize empty their empty seats and unused screens during the pandemic. There were private rentals, classic films, concerts, combat sports events, and gaming and eSports. While movie theaters are getting back down to their main business, selling overpriced concessions to consume during the hottest new Hollywood films, some exhibitors are sticking with several alternatives that carried them through Covid.

Cinépolis theaters, for one particularly unique example, are rolling out Self Care Sundays. Each Self Care Sundays screening includes a complimentary small order of popcorn, hydrating Grace & Stella Energy Drink Eye Masks, a guided mind/body balancing experience by PSYT Psychological Technologies, and a curated preshow by Spotlight Cinema Networks.

Sunday evenings are traditionally a slow time for movie theaters; why not go zen?

“Nope”

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But There’s Still Movies — Lots of ’em

Wow, we were wowed by the movies themselves: the first reel of “Bullet Train,” the first 15 minutes of “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” the opening 30 minutes of “Lightyear,” the first footage (in 3-D!) from “Avatar: The Way of Water,” and extended looks at Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” “Amsterdam,” and Jordan Peele’s “Nope,” to name just a few. We also got the first news of “The Batman 2,” which will continue Robert Pattinson’s run as the caped crusader, a look at Margot Robbie as Barbie.

And then we were treated Thursday to the trailer for “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part I,” which was introduced via Tom Cruise pulling off an insane aerial stunt from atop a biplane, just for the CinemaCon crowd. The footage that followed somehow lived up to his pre-taped message.

The coming Lionsgate slate lacked much firepower beyond what “John Wick Chapter 4” is packing, but the studio’s films in development seemed solid. There’s “Borderlands” and a “Hunger Games” prequel, as well as a “Dirty Dancing” sequel to come.

Here at IndieWire, the coming movies we’re collectively the most excited for are “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Bullet Train,” “Elvis,” “Lightyear,” “Nope,” and David Bowie doc “Moonage Daydream.”

Bad Bunny Is Having a Good Year

Puerto Rican superstar Bad Bunny recently parlayed his hip-hop career into a pretty successful run with pro-wrestling giant WWE. He’s now leveraging those skills into a big-screen career in “Bullet Train.” He’s off to a good start, after seeing his big fight scene opposite Brad Pitt, and Sony announced he will be the title character in “El Muerto,” making him Marvel’s first Latino live-action lead. In the comic books, El Muerto, aka Juan Carlos, fights Spider-Man in a charity wrestling match and nearly unmasks Peter Parker. The film will be released January 12, 2024.

“This opportunity to bring El Muerto to life, it’s amazing. It’s incredible,” Bad Bunny said Monday. “I love wrestling, I grew up watching wrestling and now I’m a wrestler … I think it’s the perfect role for me. It will be epic, I’m sure.” So are we.

“Top Gun: Maverick” Finally Takes Flight

We needed to shower, towel off, and play some beach volleyball after taking in “Top Gun: Maverick” Thursday morning. Forget Cannes, we got the first crack at the sequel to the 1986 Tom Cruise blockbuster; it did not disappoint and was well worth the wait.

“Top Gun: Maverick” has enough callbacks (arguably, a few too many) to the original film, but it soars far above the clouds in every other way. As you might have guessed from our “Mission: Impossible” love letter above, the stunts in “Maverick” are truly second to none. The storyline with Miles Teller as Goose’s son works well, as does Jon Hamm as the new Navy guy trying to ground everyone’s favorite hot-shot pilot.

“Maverick” is a top-notch action flick that serves up drama, comedy, and a weird new way to play football. It is really quite the spectacle and will be the perfect movie to reintroduce theaters to the general public. That makes it the clear star of CinemaCon 22.

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