Warner Bros. CinemaCon Highlights: Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, DC Comics, and More


Celebrating its 100th year, Warner Bros. unveiled a packed lineup of new big-screen films at CinemaCon on Tuesday, from a live-action Barbie comedy to Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg’s remake of The Color Purple. The historic Hollywood studio also used its presentation at the annual Las Vegas gathering to tease a ‘10-year plan’ to relaunch its DC superhero films, which include beloved characters such as Batman and Superman.

David Zaslav, who spearheaded last year’s corporate merger of Warner and Discovery, took to the stage personally to court an audience predominantly made up of theatre owners. “We don’t want to do direct-to-streaming movies,” said Zaslav, whose predecessor was slammed for releasing Warner films directly onto its streaming platform HBO Max — recently rebranded as Max. “We’re in no rush to bring the movies to Max.”

Across a two-and-a-half-hour presentation, Zaslav and fellow Warner bosses brought out A-list stars including Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya. Robbie and Gosling co-star in Barbie, out July 21, which finds the ubiquitous blonde doll living in a dreamlike, pink-hued world, before one day starting to question her too-perfect reality and travelling to real-life Los Angeles.

“Everyone knows Barbie, and she’s never been on the big screen before,” said director Greta Gerwig, who drew inspiration from The Wizard of Oz as well as disco music culture. “They made life-size Barbie houses… everything was extraordinary.”

Gosling said making the film was ‘like a fever dream,’ explaining: “I was living my life, and then one day I was bleaching my hair, shaving my legs and wearing bespoke neon outfits and rollerblading down Venice Beach.”

Oprah Winfrey took to the stage to introduce her and Steven Spielberg’s new version of The Color Purple, out Christmas Day. The movie is based on the Broadway musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel about Black women enduring trauma, sexual abuse, and racism in the rural Deep South in the early 20th century.

“The reason why it’s not your mama’s Color Purple — but your mama’s gonna really like it — is because the musical factor is so dynamic, and the magical realism is so perfected here,” said Winfrey. Winfrey starred in the previous 1985 film, earning an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress, and is a producer on the new version.

Chalamet introduced footage from two new films in which he stars. He appears in Wonka, set for December release, as a young, idealistic version of Roald Dahl’s famous chocolatier, whose efforts to launch a magical candy empire are blocked by a sinister ‘chocolate cartel.’ Chalamet described the ‘bizarre’ process of shooting the origin story — which involved “a lot of swimming in pools of actual chocolate.”

He also returns for Dune: Part Two, the second and final part of Denis Villeneuve’s Oscar-winning adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi novel, which is due out in November. Austin Butler, Léa Seydoux, Christopher Walken, and Florence Pugh join the cast for a sequel that Villeneuve described as an ‘action-packed epic war movie.’

Ten-year plan

The presentation was rounded off with Warner’s DC Universe of superhero films. The DC movies, though popular, have in recent times suffered from various production issues and casting U-turns, and been largely overshadowed by the rival, record-grossing Marvel films. James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Peter Safran (Aquaman) were recently brought in as new heads of the division.

This year, the studio will release The Flash, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Though those films were made under Warner’s previous regime, Gunn said they will ‘lead perfectly into the DCU slate that we have coming up starting in 2024.’

Superman: Legacy, directed by Gunn, is already scheduled for July 2025. Safran said the future DC movies would be “vast, interconnected and filled with promise and possibility,” and promised he and Gunn are ‘cracking into’ the universe’s ‘first chapter.’

Zaslav, a self-professed ‘lover of DC,’ told the audience that Warner has a new ‘10-year plan’ for the titles.

CinemaCon, which runs until Thursday at Caesars Palace, provides Hollywood studios a chance to showcase their upcoming films to movie theatre bosses — while wheeling out the industry’s biggest stars to whip up excitement.

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