CinemaCon 2023 is off to an exciting start thanks to yesterday’s Sony Pictures presentation, and now Warner Bros. is looking to keep that momentum flowing. The official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), CinemaCon has risen in great notoriety since it debuted in 2011. Every year studios, distributors, exhibitors, industry professionals, and more unite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to celebrate the communal moviegoing experience on the big screen and discuss the future.
This is where big names like Walt Disney Studios, Universal Pictures, and Paramount Pictures present their upcoming slate of theatrical releases to actual theater owners. CinemaCon is not open to the public but fear not because DiscussingFilm is on the ground this year reporting the biggest announcements and reveals. Warner Bros. Pictures is the next studio to give its presentation at CinemaCon and fans can expect a lot of exciting updates as their presentations always pack plenty of surprises.
News related to major upcoming Warner Bros. releases like Barbie, Meg 2: The Trench, Blue Beetle, Dune: Part II, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is to be expected. Last year theater owners and CinemaCon attendees got the very first exclusive looks at The Flash, Don’t Worry Darling, Elvis, and more. The studio is known to always pack an impressive presentation at CinemaCon, so all eyes are on Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav who must make a strong impression with the brand’s upcoming theatrical slate.
Exclusive footage and first-look reveals from CinemaCon are never released to the public, so that’s where we come in. Aside from listing huge updates, we’ll also be describing all exclusive footage shown to CinemaCon 2023 attendees. Stay tuned as we cover all the announcements and reveals from Warner Bros’ CinemaCon 2023 presentation and make sure to follow along as we report the presentations from Walt Disney Studios, Universal Pictures, and Paramount Pictures in the incoming days.
Warner Bros. Updates from CinemaCon 2023
Director: Greta Gerwig
Release Date: July 21, 2023
Exclusive Footage Description: CinemaCon got a look at a new trailer for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. The footage kicks off with Margot Robbie’s Barbie living her best life in Barbie Land, waking up every morning to the same comical routine and hanging out with her fellow Barbies and Kens. They have beach and disco night parties where they break out into synchronized dance numbers. Margot’s Barbie accidently breaks the mood one day when she asks her fellow dolls if they’ve ever thought about death while dancing in a hilarious needle scratch moment.
From that moment on, our main Barbie starts to experience side effects from her curiosity, which includes her heel-shaped feet going flat like normal humans. This, of course, scares the living hell out of her fellow dolls. Her friends encourage her to visit “the Weird Barbie” who lives on top of this hill in a zany and bizarre dollhouse. The Weird Barbie is played by Kate McKinnon and is dressed in a mix match of different colorful outfits while also stuck doing the splits with her legs. She knows the truth about their world and offers our main Barbie a choice like in The Matrix – choose the pink heel to stay in Barbie Land or choose a dirty sandal to learn the origins of being a doll. Margot’s Barbie just wants to go back to her simple life but the Weird Barbie forces her to take the sandal.
Margot’s Barbie is next seen in the desert driving out of Barbie Land in her pink convertible. Ken surprises her by secretly sneaking in the back seat to tag along for the ride since they’re an inseparable dup. From there on, the two explore reality while behaving like their pastiche selves, from roller skating at the Santa Monica Pier to getting arrested by the police for causing all kinds of humorous mischief. Will Ferrell, who is the CEO of the company that invented all the dolls and runs Barbie Land in secrecy, discovers that two of their subjects have escaped and launches a full search mission. America Ferrera’s character is a suit who works for Ferrell and joins in on the search.
As Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling cause chaos in reality, the rest of the Barbies and Kens back home start to grow suspicious and ask questions. A Barbie vs. Ken war soon ensues within all their confusion. This trailer finally sheds more light on what the actual plot of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is going to be. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling’s adventures in the real world will more than likely take up most of the second half of the movie while the rest of the Barbies and Kens run amok back in Barbie Land. Will Ferrell and America Ferrera will also have to come to terms with their own creations in the dolls as they lose control of their toy empire. John Cena’s merman Ken with long hair is briefly seen in Barbie Land at the beach. Maybe he’s a partner to Dua Lipa’s Mermaid Barbie?
Meg 2: The Trench
Director: Ben Wheatley
Release Date: August 4, 2023
Exclusive Footage Description: Warner Bros. debuted the trailer for Meg 2: The Trench at CinemaCon 2023. Directed by Ben Wheatley (Free Fire, In the Earth), this sequel is not doubling but tripling down on its absurdity. The footage begins in prehistoric times, where we see a massive T-Rex hunt for fish at a beach only to then be chomped in two by an even bigger megalodon. Fast forward to the present, and the team from the first film led by Jason Statham travels to the bottom of the ocean to make a horrifying discovery: there’s a trench that acts as a doorway to a slew of prehistoric creatures that have survived extinction all these millions of years.
This trench soon releases giant squids, megalodons, and a variety of other prehistoric reptiles upon modern society. More specifically, Jason Statham and his team have to face the main threat of 3 megalodons who hunt together in a pack and are led by the biggest one they have ever seen. The film’s supporting cast, including Sienna Guillory, Cliff Curtis, Shuya Sophia Cai, Page Kennedy, Skyler Samuels, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, and Wu Jing, are all seen getting in on the monster action in the trailer. Statham, though, gets the most batshit insane heroic moments as he rides giant tsunami-sized waves and takes on megalodons on a jet ski one on one with only a huge metallic spear as his weapon.
As previously mentioned, the tone of Meg 2: The Trench has been hyped up to hilarious levels of campiness. Innocent but dumb human bystanders are getting chomped up by megalodons and torn apart by giant squids left and right. The film is leaning heavier into sci-fi as well, with underwater mech suits being utilized in the trench scenes. This looks like a hilarious cross between Jurassic Park and Piranha, which should be music to the ears of genre fans. There’s a taste of over-the-top Fast and Furious levels of action too seeing Jason Statham try to kill megalodons all by himself. One thing’s for sure, Meg 2: The Trench feels like a necessary upgrade in tone and style from the first film.
Director: Angel Manuel Soto
Release Date: August 18, 2023
Exclusive Footage Description: DC Films Co-CEO Peter Safran and director Angel Manuel Soto gave CinemaCon attendees an extended version of the already-released Blue Beetle trailer. For the most part, the trailer plays the same as the one fans can find online, with the exception of added moments where we get to see Jaime Reyes test out the abilities of the scarab armor in action. He gets creative with using force fields and turns his hands into oversized power fists to take a group of goons down.
Aside from these additional action beats, we get to see the Reyes family more in action. Director Angel Manuel Soto said that what makes this superhero film so unique in the genre is that the protagonist’s family is involved in the story from start to finish and actively participates in the action. He teased that they each get their own arcs in the film, some more comical than others. We see in the extended trailer as the final shot is of Jaime’s grandmother heading into a battle with an advanced chain gun. The new footage also showed more corners of Palmera City, which is infused with a retro ’80s neon style with a prominent Latino influence.
The Nun 2
Director: Michael Chaves
Release Date: September 8, 2023
Warner Bros. wowed CinemaCon attendees with the first-ever look at The Nun 2, the next film in the expanding Conjuring Universe. A bone-chilling extended scene was shown before leading into a full trailer, fully showcasing the gothic-inspired tone and atmosphere of this sequel. The scene followed a group of young Catholic students who are playing an eerie game inside the attic of an old church in 1956 France. The game involves one of the kids staring into a stained glass window that features a goat and waiting until the eyes of the animal turn red, meaning the arrival of the devil himself manifests. When the young child sees the eyes turn red and runs away, the Nun appears in the attic and tries to claim her as a victim.
The full trailer starts with headlines of unexplainable killings taking place in France and the Vatican believes it to be the demon Nun Valak. Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) returns and is asked to help by the Vatican, but is hesitant due to the events of the first film. A priest then teases that the Nun used to actually be an angel, and these latest cases in France will shed more light on the demon’s true motivations. The Nun is now haunting a group of Catholic children. When the kids hear a noise coming from above their shared bedroom at night, they investigate by sending one of the girls into a crawl space and she sees a freaky young boy. She quickly crawls back to the other girls looking terrified and starts to explain what she saw before an arm instantly comes out of the crawl space to cover her mouth.
It goes without saying that The Nun 2 looks like an impressive improvement over the first film. The footage genuinely left CinemaCon attendees in shock, thanks to a formidable gothic atmosphere and some of the scares relying more on the visual horror of the Nun rather than it being a jump scare. Though jump scares were present in the vein of previous Conjuring films of course. Taissa Farmiga seems to be given a more complex role, similar to the Warren family by using her previous experiences to dive deeper into the lore of the Nun. The actress confirmed during the presentation that this sequel will unravel more clear-cut connections to the greater Conjuring franchise. Storm Reid’s new character was briefly seen in the footage as well.
Dune: Part II
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Release Date: November 3, 2023
Exclusive Footage Description: Director Denis Villeneuve revealed the first trailer for his highly anticipated sequel, Dune: Part II. The action-packed footage begins with Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and Chani (Zendaya) acting affectionately toward each other while sitting on a large sand dune. By now, they are slowly but surely starting to fully embrace their romance. Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan is introduced early as she wears a beaded veil over her face and talks about the incoming war. We see that Josh Brolin’s Gurney Halleck makes a comeback after the events of the first film. Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica is seen riding across the desert with the Fremen people in some sort of speeder as well, teasing their plans to overthrow the Harkonnens.
The rest of the footage jumps back and forth between Paul in his first attempt to ride a sandworm and Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, portrayed by Elvis star Austin Butler, entering the story. Butler’s Feyd is seen bowing in front of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) while his brother Glossu Rabban (Dave Bautista) stands to the side and looks upon him with fear in his eyes. Meanwhile, Fremen leader Stilgar (Javier Bardem) gives a piece of advice to Paul before he attempts his first sandworm ride: “Don’t try to impress anyone.” He soon eats his words as Paul quickly gets the hang of controlling a sandworm. The lead-up to this moment, as Paul prepares his hooks and everyone watches thinking he’s going to fail, is pulse-pounding and visually stunning in a way that was barely teased in the first film.
Denis Villeneuve confirmed that 100% of Dune: Part II is shot in IMAX as opposed to its predecessor having about 40% of the format, and this difference is clearly felt. Perhaps the most epic shot from the entire trailer, we are teased with what looks to be the final duel between Paul Atreides and Feyd-Rautha in a wide and spacious battlefield. Austin Butler’s version of Feyd is completely pale and bald just like his brother Glossu Rabban, but he boasts some facial features that look a bit more monstrous. Before their final duel, Paul touches his forehead with his blade as Feyd looks bloodthirsty on the opposite side. Most if not all of the supporting cast form a crowd around them and watch from a close distance. Notably, Christopher Walken as the Emperor was absent from the trailer.
Director: Paul King
Release Date: December 15, 2023
Exclusive Footage Description: Warner Bros. revealed the first look at the prequel film Wonka starring Timothée Chalamet. We are introduced to a young and poor Willy Wonka who lives with this young girl played by Calah Lane, a new original character who acts like a pseudo-sister for the aspiring candy maker. Willy is seen traveling to exotic jungles, perfecting the art of making chocolate from cacao beans. The young man has a dream of owning a shop to sell his own chocolate via his original recipes, but the distribution of sweets in the industrial town he lives in is controlled by a “chocolate cartel,” which is really just a group of greedy businessmen. The instantly recognizable melody of “Pure Imagination” from 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is used in the footage.
Wonka cannot fulfill his dreams of selling chocolate if he can’t get passed the chocolate cartel in order to set up a shop. He decides to get extremely creative in pursuing his dreams, distributing his magical candy to the people of the town and building a name for himself the old-fashioned way. When the cartel comes to stop him, he gives them a piece of his chocolate and it sends them floating in the air, which gets the attention of the townspeople. Keegan-Michael Key enters the scene as a comical policeman who tries to stop Wonka’s hijinks for what looks to be the rest of the film. The footage ends with Hugh Grant being introduced as a short oompa loompa stuck in a glass jar. He is orange and has the same green hairdo and white outfit as in the original film.
Willy accuses this oompa loompa of spying on him but the short companion tries to explain the situation through song. He takes out and blows on a flute, then tells an annoyed Willy, “Once we start we have to finish the song.” Directed by Paul King of the Paddington series, Wonka flaunts a whimsical tone and sweeps audiences away with a gleeful spirit. It fully plays into the charm of author Roald Dahl’s original children’s book. Timothée Chalamet’s interpretation of a young Willy Wonka is rebellious, a bit blunt in the vein of Gene Wilder’s famous performance, and more importantly, purely magical. We see him fly across town by holding a large collection of colorful balloons and fully embrace himself in multiple musical performances. Wonka, like Paul King’s past films, seems to be an ideal blend of cinematic fun for older and younger audiences alike.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
Director: James Wan
Release Date: December 20, 2023
A new extensive look at Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom was shown at CinemaCon 2023, and this sequel looks even bigger and more fantasy-filled than the first film. We learn that Arthur Curry has kept busy as the king of Atlantis, stopping threats around the ocean and in the kingdom itself. He’s currently in the middle of an identity crisis of sorts as he doesn’t know how to be a better ruler for his people and maintain his image as a hero. Arthur asks his father Tom (Temuera Morrison) for advice at the family Lighthouse, to which he says that these answers might come from where he least expects them, alluding to his upcoming adventure with Orm (Patrick Wilson). In the meantime, Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is plotting revenge against Aquaman with the help of Dr. Stephen Shin (Randall Park).
Black Manta’s plan comes with unleashing an ancient evil upon Atlantis, and he’s just obtained a mythical black trident that allows him to wield this power. We see Black Manta lead a successful full-out attack on Atlantis with this black trident as it glows with mysterious green energy, obviously further corrupting Manta’s mindset. Arthur Curry has left no choice but to reach out to his imprisoned and disgraced half-brother Orm, whose experience and knowledge of Atlantean legends might be the key to stopping Black Manta. The two half-siblings are reluctant to join forces, however, once they decide to put their personal feelings aside for the fate of their people, they get the chance to reconnect their brotherly bond on a globe-trotting adventure.
We next get a glimpse of all the obstacles Arthur and Orm must face together in order to stop this ancient evil. Aquaman is seen wearing a new black suit in a desert-like locale, yet it seems the classic gold and green costume will be used for a good majority of the film. They encounter all kinds of threats, from Black Manta’s advanced bio-armored army to even more horrendous-looking creatures that look similar to those of The Trench. Mera (Amber Heard) joins in on the action in Atlantis alongside former queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), both respectively wearing slightly updated versions of their signature green and white costumes. The footage ends with Orm now fully supporting Arthur, telling him, “If you lead, they will come.” We finally see a shot of Aquaman summoning massive armies of sea creatures, including whales and sharks, for what could be the third-act grand finale.
The Color Purple
Director: Blitz Bazawule
Release Date: December 25, 2023
Exclusive Footage Description: CinemaCon got the first-ever look at the latest reimaging of the timeless Broadway musical The Color Purple from producer Oprah Winfrey and director Blitz Bazawule. Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones were also heavily involved as producers says Oprah. Blitz Bazawule states his vision for this timeless story is told in such a joyous way that it will attract groups of families and communities to see it in theaters. Oprah also claimed that the film has scored very high in all of its test screenings. “This can only be experienced on the big screen… it is our mission to get people in their seats,” she says of this adaptation.
The first footage showed an energetic and vibrant retelling with the tagline “Not your mama’s Color Purple.” The entire main ensemble, including Taraji P. Henson, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, Danielle Brooks, H.E.R., Ciara, Jon Batiste, Halle Bailey, and Fantasia in her big screen debut, gets a chance to shine in the trailer. Judging by the impressive cinematic color palette and imaginative visual scale, this take on The Color Purple could be the main film event of the 2023 holiday season. Fans should not be worried about this adaptation lacking style or flair, the vast arrays of colors pop off from the screen and the beats of the musical numbers are felt from your seat. Just by this one trailer, The Color Purple looks to be a heavy contender in the next awards season no doubt.