LAS VEGAS – Universal started out its CinemaCon presentation with the big one: New footage from Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.”
“I know of no more dramatic tale, with higher stakes, twists and turns, paradoxes,” Nolan told a room full of theater owners Wednesday in Las Vegas. “In learning about that story, I wanted to be in that room and see what that must have been like.”
“Oppenheimer,” due in cinemas on July 21, is about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant, charismatic physicist who, along with his peers at Los Alamos, developed the atomic bomb and changed the world. Cillian Murphy, a frequent Nolan collaborator going back to “Batman Begins,” plays the title role in a starry cast that includes Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and many more.
“Like it or not, he is the most important person who ever lived. He made the world we live in for better or worse. His story has to be seen to be believed," Nolan said. "His story is both dream and nightmare.”
Nolan shot the movie on large format IMAX in both color and black and white, but "not too much black and white, don’t worry,” he said.
“Oppenheimer” marks the first time Nolan has partnered with Universal, after he parted ways with his longtime studio Warner Bros. amid the shop’s divisive pivot to streaming for its 2022 releases.
The filmmaker has always been a passionate defender and advocate for movie theaters, and “Oppenheimer” will be no different, with 70mm IMAX, 35mm, Dolby Vision and other premium large-format screen versions available around the world.
Nolan also said he could neither confirm nor deny that a full-length trailer will play in front of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which opens May 5.
The Universal team, including filmed entertainment group chairman Donna Langley, assembled in Las Vegas for the annual conference just days after news broke that Jeff Shell, the chief executive of NBCUniversal and one of the media industry’s renowned executives, was leaving the company after an investigation into inappropriate conduct.
Shell oversaw a vast portfolio of assets including the motion picture company. Previously he was chairman of NBCUniversal Film and Entertainment. As of Wednesday, parent company Comcast had not yet named a successor.
The film studio team has been basking in the recent box office success of Illumination’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which has already made over $900 million at the global box office. It will be the first movie to pass $1 billion in 2023, a landmark it will hit this coming week, Langley said.
“Mario” also came on the heels of hits like “Cocaine Bear” and “M3GAN,” which Universal’s domestic distribution chief Jim Orr noted also dominated cultural conversation from memes to late night fodder.
“We bet on audiences,” Orr said. “We believe the best days are in front of us not behind us.”
In their 2023 slate, Orr said, “The comedy is crazier, the horror more terrifying, the drama more powerful. And ‘Fast X’ is faster and more furious than anything you’ve seen before. “
Will Ferrell walked out on stage carrying a dog named Sophie to talk about his very R-rated comedy “Strays” (June 9), in which he and Jamie Foxx play foul mouth pups. Sophie, Ferrell said, plays his character Reggie in the film.
“She’s not that cute, you don’t have to keep cutting to her,” Ferrell said. “Hey camera operator, let’s try to keep it even. One shot of her, one shot of me.”
“I have three Emmys and a Mark Twain Prize and you regularly (expletive) on the sidewalk,” he added.
Ferrell later apologized to Sophie. The bit had the crowd in stitches.
Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick also brought energy to the room to talk about “Trolls Band Together," which is coming on Nov. 17.
“Hey A-Ken. Ak-Attack," Timberlake said. “I'm high."
A moment later he clarified he wasn't. Kendrick said in this film their characters have moved out of “the friend zone.”
“Get ready to rock and trooooollll,” Kendrick shouted, quipping to her straight-man counterpart that “joy is a choice.”
DreamWorks Animation teased “Ruby Gillman Teenage Kraken,” due on June 30, about a part Kraken trying to survive high school who is voiced by Lana Condor.
“We feel it has the potential to become the girl power movie of the summer,” said Margie Cohn, the president of DreamWorks Animation.
Jason Blum and David Gordon Green, who partnered on the “Halloween” revivals, also showed a first look at the new, modern day “Exorcist” movie, “The Exorcist Believer,” in which two children become possessed. It’s the first in a planned trilogy, that brings back Ellen Burstyn and opens in theaters on Oct. 13.
Universal closed with some big ones too. First up was “Fast X,” with Jordan Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese and Sung Kang there to, briefly, recap the first nine films before calling Vin Diesel to the stage and exiting stage left.
“I like this room better than the Oscars,” Diesel said to cheers. “And you know I really mean that.”
Then stunt performers from Eighty Seven North provided the opening act for Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling to tease “Fall Guy” before they closed with a first look at “Wicked," which Langley promised will “dazzle your screens.”