Warner Bros. teases ‘Joker’ sequel, ‘Beetlejuice 2’ and more at CinemaCon

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Warner Bros isn’t resting on its “Barbie” laurels: The 100-year studio has its sights on a record-breaking 2024 as well, with a release slate that includes a new Mad Max film, ” Furiosa”, Kevin Costner’s two-part Western epic, “Horizon: An American Saga”, the “Beetlejuice” sequel, and “Joker: Folie à Deux,” which brings Lady Gaga to Gotham City. The studio was first up Tuesday night to dazzle theatre owners who are gathered this week in Las Vegas for the annual CinemaCon convention and trade show. They came armed with stars, including the likes of Kevin Costner, Michael Keaton, Robert Pattinson, Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth, as well as footage and trailers to show.

“Joker” director Todd Phillips showed the audience a trailer for “Joker: Folie a Deux”, out October 4, which brings Joaquin Phoenix back as the violent and mentally ill Arthur Fleck and introduces Gaga’s Harley Quinn. Phillips thanked the exhibitors in the room for helping the first movie become such a big success. Addressing rumours that the sequel is a musical, Phillips said that he hasn’t referred to it as such. “It’s a movie where music is an essential element,” Phillips said. “To me, that doesn’t veer very far from the first film.” Before its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next month and theatrical release on May 24, “Furiosa” director George Miller, stars Taylor-Joy and Hemsworth, spoke a bit about the prequel and showed some explosive new footage.

“We just finished last week,” said the 79-year-old filmmaker, whose first Mad Max film came out 45 years ago. This new film is focused on a young Furiosa, who was played by Charlize Theron in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the 2015 blockbuster that made over USD 300 million at the box office and won four Oscars. “This is the story of one woman’s relentless commitment to impossible hope,” Taylor-Joy said. “We see her go through everything.” Hemsworth plays a warlord named “Dementus.” The audience was especially excited to hear from Kevin Costner, who will be back in theatres this summer with a two-part Western, “Horizon: An American Saga”, which he directed, co-wrote and stars in. Set during the Civil War, Costner wanted to look at the idea of the promise of America.

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“It was the promise that if you could come west, if you could survive it, you could make a home at the expense of a lot of things,” Costner said. “To me, that’s drama.” The film is getting an unconventional release, with “Part 1” hitting theatres on June 28 followed by “Part 2” on Augus 16. The ensemble includes Sienna Miller, Sam Worthington, Danny Huston and “Stranger Things” breakout Jamie Campbell Bower. “A lot of people like plot movies,” Costner said. “I have a tendency to like journey movies.” “Horizon: An American Saga” will premiere at Cannes next month as well.

Tim Burton was also on hand to hype “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice”, the sequel to his 1988 hit, which brings back Keaton, Winona Ryder and Catherine O’Hara to reprise their roles, and introduces new characters played by Jenna Ortega, Monica Bellucci, Willem Dafoe and Justin Theroux. It opens in theatres on September 5. Burton said he always related to Lydia Deetz and wanted to know what happened to the Deetz women over the years and was happy that Ryder, O’Hara and Keaton were on board too. “It was like a weird family reunion,” Burton said.

Keaton said they had discussed the possibility many times over the years and they finally got it right. “It’s good. It’s really, really good,” Keaton said. “In fact, it’s great.” Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-ho showed a trailer for his new film, “Mickey 17”, starring Robert Pattinson, which will be in theatres in January 2025. “It’s about a simple man who ultimately ends up saving the world,” the “Parasite” director said through a translator. “It’s a very strange type of hero’s journey.” Pattinson called the story unusual, funny and bizarre. “I was told, you’re going to love the script, but the part is impossible,” he said.

Warner Bros is also at work rebooting its DC superhero universe, under the supervision of Peter Safran and James Gunn, who is currently filming the new “Superman” in Atlanta for a summer 2025 release. Before that, the studio is releasing a documentary about the first cinematic Superman, Christopher Reeve, which they acquired out of Sundance. “Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story” will be in theatres in September. Three years after the studio’s former leaders made the decision to release all of their films day-and-date in theatres and on its streaming service, Warner Bros has reestablished itself as a vital part of the movie theatre ecosystem.

In December, they made the unconventional move to release three major films in short order: “Wonka”, “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” and “The Color Purple.” It was done in agreement with theatre owners who said that they needed more films. Those movies, domestic distribution president Jeff Goldstein said, cumulatively made over USD 1 billion globally, and the studio was responsible for approximately 50 per cent of the box office at Christmas. This year has gotten off to a strong start too, propelled by “Wonka” and leading into “Dune: Part Two” (both have made over USD 600 million globally) and “Godzilla x Kong” which has surpassed USD 300 million at the box office. “Storytelling is our business,” Goldstein said. “We are committed to making big, crowd-pleasing, event movies.”