Before The Last Knight or the Age of Extinction, before Decepticons started leveling American cities and destroying military bases, a yellow Volkswagen Beetle sits forgotten in a California junkyard. It’s been neglected long enough that a honeycomb of bees buzzes beneath its wheel well. Seventeen-year-old Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), takes it home.
She gets more than a car. As Charlie slides beneath her new ride to inspect it, the bug erupts in an intricate flipping puzzle of zinging metal parts, rearranging itself into beloved Autobot Bumblebee.
“Let me tell you something, the driver don’t pick the car, the car pick the driver,” a hauntingly familiar voice-over – it’s the late Bernie Mac, warning Sam Wtiwicky (Shia LaBeouf) in 2007’s Transformers – announces at the trailer’s opening moments. “It’s a mystical bond between man and machine.”
In this case, it’s woman and machine (and a woman, Christina Hodson, wrote the script), but the bond between Charlie and Bumblebee looks as strong as any.
Hailee Steinfeld in BUMBLEBEE, from Paramount Pictures.
The two become great pals. They go to the beach. They go swimming. Charlie goes no-hands through the sunroof down the Pacific Coast Highway, perhaps pioneering the self-driving car in the film’s 1987 setting.
But things get hectic. The military lurks. So does a dreaded Decepticon. Charlie gets banged up. Helicopters fall from the sky.
The film, helmed by Oscar-nominated Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight, promises to wrap this action in a powerful story informed by the Transformers’ heritage. “I wanted to return to the essences of what made the Transformers franchise so impactful right from the beginning: character, emotion, spectacle,” Knight told attendees at April’s CinemaCon.
Which is not to say that echoes of Paramount Pictures’ five previous Transformers films won’t ricochet off the screen. “… and explosions,” Knight continued, “lots and lots of explosions.”
Bumblebee will debut in theaters Dec. 21, 2018. John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon and Stephen Schneider will star alongside Steinfeld.
As a movie studio with a diversified upcoming slate and powerful television production arm, reinforced with an iconic century-old library, Paramount Pictures is well positioned to thrive far into the future, according to President and CEO Jim Gianopulos.
The studio head, who has built a new management team since taking the helm at Paramount last year, sat down with CNN Money’s Dylan Byers at the Milken Institute Global Conference earlier this month to discuss the resurgent business.
“We’re content creators,” Gianopulos said. “We’re storytellers. For us, our primary focus is theatrical distribution as a studio, and, in television, the creation of television programming.”
LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 25: Jim Gianopulos speaks onstage during the 2018 CinemaCon – Paramount Pictures special summer presentation held at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 25, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
Television Production Ramps Up As Diverse Theatrical Slate Debuts
Both sides of the business – television and theatrical – have powerful catalysts driving them. The Paramount Television production studio, which has grown rapidly behind a string of premium-content hits such as Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, TNT’s The Alienist, and USA Network’s Shooter, is on track to reach $400 million in revenues this year.
The forthcoming theatrical slate, which has been rejiggered under the current management team, will include sequels, reboots, animated films, and tie-ins to other Viacom brands through its Paramount Players division. At last month’s CinemaCon, Gianopulos detailed this lineup, which stands out for its diverse offerings that will appeal to both mass and niche audiences.
“We have an old saying that’s always worked for us – make it for someone, or make it for everyone,” he said, citing the forthcoming Mission: Impossible – Fallout and recent smash hit A Quiet Place as projects with mass appeal.
Meanwhile, Book Club – set to drop in theaters this Friday with a headlining cast of Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen – has been tailor-made to appeal to an adult female demographic.
“For them, that is Star Wars,” he said. “That’s their movie. Something that people feel an identity to. They made this for me. This is something relevant and relatable to me. You can continue to make a broad variety of films, and in the process, be very successful.”
A Rich History That Continues to Build the Present
For all the buzz around the studio’s yet-to-be-released films, one of Paramount’s under-appreciated strengths is its deep content warehouse that stretches back to the dawn of the industry.
One of the most shocked-into-silence moments for the audience at Paramount Pictures’ CinemaCon presentation came when Tom Cruise, hero of five previously released Mission: Impossible films, recapped the intensity and challenge of conducting a freefall stunt for the franchise’s forthcoming sixth installment.
“Each take is like running an 800-meter sprint,” Cruise said. “We did 106 takes.”
This blunt understatement captures just one extraordinary moment in one forthcoming film from Paramount, the resurgent studio that over the course of that two-hour presentation unveiled or confirmed new installments to its cherished franchises, sequels to some of its most popular films from new and antique vintage, an aggressive Viacom co-branded slate through its Paramount Players division, a trio of animated adventures, and new films based upon a longstanding and expanded partnership with Hasbro.
“We’re laying the foundation…to deliver to you films for every possible audience for years to come,” Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, who has spent the past year building a new management team for the studio, told the audience.
As we zoom (buckled up) toward the July 27 release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Paramount confirmed that many of its other most beloved franchises will soon get a new installment. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton will return in a new Terminator movie next November. And Transformers, which has delivered five more or less contiguous sequels, will, as previously announced, dogleg off into Bumblebee, which hits theaters this Dec. 21.
Director Travis Knight showed off the first Bumblebee clip at the event, telling the audience, “I wanted to return to the essences of what made the Transformer franchise so impactful right from the beginning: character, emotion, spectacle and explosions, lots and lots of explosions.”
Many other films will get their first sequel, including the recently released hit A Quiet Place,2013’s World War Z, 1988’s Coming to America (look for Coming 2 America), and, as previously confirmed, 1986’s Top Gun, which also stars original Maverick Cruise.
And before he drops a fourth Cloverfield movie on us at some as-yet-to-be-announced future point, J.J. Abrams’ Overlord will transport moviegoers into a bizarro version of behind-enemy-lines World War II on Oct. 26.
Beyond the realm of the sequel, the studio will drop fans into the labrynthian world of Dungeons and Dragons and the sci-fi realm of Micronauts, both through the studio’s partnership with Hasbro (the same partnership behind Paramount’s Transformers and G.I. Joe movies).
Other standalone projects will pit assassin Will Smith against a younger cloned version of himself in Gemini Man, and cast Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as the overwhelmed adoptive parents of three in Instant Family.
Tapping Viacom’s deep content well to co-produce Paramount films has been a priority under CEO Bob Bakish, and the studio confirmed that one of Nickelodeon’s most resiliently popular characters, SpongeBob SquarePants, will return for his third big-screen adaptation, It’s A Wonderful Sponge, in 2020. The film will be one of three newly announced releases on the animation division’s slate, joining Luck – which exposes the millennia-old battle between organizations of good and bad luck – and Monster on the Hill, set in an alternative world of wrestling monsters. Additionally, the previously announced Wonder Park will debut next March.
Other top Viacom brands are joining Nickelodeon in collaborating with Paramount, through the Paramount Players division led by Brian Robbins and formed to further integrate the brands with the movie studio. In association with MTV, Eli, the story of a boy being treated for a rare disease in a clinic-cum-haunted-prison, will roll out in January 2019. BET will reconstitute the 2000 hit What Women Want with What Men Want, portraying a frustrated female sports agent who gains the power of mind-reading. Paramount Players is also working on Nickelodeon’s live-action Dora the Explorer and Are You Afraid of the Dark, both slated for 2019 release.
In the last week, Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place won the domestic box office and MTV’s Jersey Shore Family Vacation rolled to the strongest unscripted cable debut in six years. The efforts provide commercial evidence of Viacom’s ongoing transformation – fueled by wide-ranging creative investments in talent, programming, and marketing.
The chart-topping numbers are especially encouraging in a media environment of ever-more-elusive audiences. The divergent paths to success of these two properties – A Quiet Place delivering something novel by elevating a horror story to a genre-busting blockbuster that appeals to all audiences, Jersey Shore Family Vacation building on MTV’s deep well of intellectual property to connect with its core demographic – underscore the way in which a creative renaissance is driving Viacom’s growth.
Marketing a near-silent film in an era of loud
Making a bet on the film’s potential playability, Paramount unveiled A Quiet Place at SXSW to great response. The highly original film immediately started compiling incredibly strong reviews. A clever marketing campaign then helped launch A Quiet Place to a $50.3 million opening weekend, good for the second-best domestic opening of 2018 (behind Black Panther). With a $17 million budget, the Platinum Dunes-produced and John Krasinski-directed film is a validation of Paramount’s reoriented slate and refreshed marketing approach under CEO Jim Gianopulos, who joined the studio last year.
“An innovative concept, with great talent both behind the camera and in front, and a savvy distribution and marketing plan led to Paramount’s biggest opening since 2016,” wrote Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in a staff memo about the film’s success.
Building strong relationships with talent has become a particular focus for Viacom under Bakish, and Krasinski, who will produce and star in the Paramount Television-produced Jack Ryan for Amazon and co-created Paramount Network’s hit show Lip Sync Battle, demonstrates the enormous cross-brand potential that forming such deep relationships can yield.
A Quiet Place’s unique storyline – featuring a family tiptoeing through a post-apocalyptic world infested with insectoid monsters that will devour anyone who makes a sound – created an opportunity for Paramount to execute an equally original pre-release marketing plan. They delivered: moviegoers in nearly 100 theater chains caught the sonically attuned monsters devouring noisy spectators in pre-show spots, with the stern warning that “the movie theater should be A Quiet Place.” A pre-Super Bowl ad, a launch of the second trailer on Ellen, and a kick-off spot and accompanying stunts at the SXSW Film Festival primed diverse audiences for the film’s release.
“Paramount’s reconstituted management team is focused on allowing great filmmakers to make great movies, and then doing everything we can to support those movies,” said Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. “In A Quiet Place, we did exactly that: We gave a talented young director license to put together something unlike anything else out there, and then threw our marketing and distribution expertise behind the project.”
Tapping an iconic property to connect with a core audience
Jersey Shore Family Vacation had less work to do in the name-recognition department, as its iconic predecessor, Jersey Shore, had long ago etched its cast into the cultural conversation. The unknown was whether this fist-pumping bunch, six years older and reunited in the beaches and bars of Miami, would still connect with audiences.
It did. The show’s nearly 10 million total viewers and 4.2 average rating in the core 18-34 demo on live-plus-three-days metrics made Jersey Shore Family Vacation the most-watched unscripted debut on U.S. cable since 2012. The original Jersey Shore had ignited a global franchise – with spin-offs in the UK, Spain, Poland and Mexico, plus the recently launched hit Floribama Shorein the U.S – and the cast’s return resonated globally, with the premiere airing in nearly 180 countries and territories.
The strong ratings complemented a seven-hour trending run on Twitter and acted as an emphatic endorsement of MTV’s revamped creative direction under President Chris McCarthy. Under his leadership, the network has grown ratings for three consecutive quarters for the first time in seven years behind a blend of revitalized franchises, returning classics and original programs.
“MTV is about celebrating youth culture and music where talent and creativity unite to produce content that resonates across generations,” said McCarthy, who also oversees VH1 and Logo. “Jersey Shore Family Vacation and the new Floribama Shore demonstrate how MTV can harness our heritage to create programming that appeals to a mass audience while serving as a great launching pad for our new series.”
Anchored by a visually stunning fantasyland setting, a cerebral cocktail of plot and theme, and a fierce cast of women warrior-scientists, Paramount Pictures’ Annihilation hits U.S. theaters today to a flood of positive critical reaction.
“In just about every respect, it’s the finest cinematic sci-fi in years—or, at least, since [director Alex] Garland’s prior Ex Machina,” wrote The Daily Beast’sNick Schager, echoing the popular sentiment for this adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name.
The premise is simple enough: a meteorite crashes into a Florida lighthouse, unleashing a mysterious rippling force field dubbed the Shimmer. This dancing wall of color and motion slowly expands, and the zone within changes, like a puncture in reality, filling with enormous genetically mutated animals, overgrown plants sized and shaped like humans, and other oddities alternately novel and terrifying. Eleven expeditions have entered – only one person has returned: Kane (Oscar Isaac), the husband of ex-soldier/biologist Lena (Natalie Portman). He is diseased and dying and has been reduced to a sub-human state of mumbling and fear.
Partly in hopes of saving him, Lena joins an all-woman expeditionary force – led by psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and also including another doctor, Anya (Gina Rodriguez), physicist Josie (Tessa Thompson), and anthropologist Cass (Tuva Novotny) – on an exploration and recovery mission. Within the Shimmer, they lose communication with the outside world. Their compasses and other instruments fail. As they trek through the increasingly wild landscape, the DNA mutations transforming the forest creatures infest their bodies, their memories fail, they lose their sense of space and time.
What happens between there and the final wrenching scenes has critics elated. “Annihilation is a ferocious, feral, female-centric update of fearsome monster classics like The Thing and Alien,” writes Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter.
Here’s a deeper look at what the critics love most about Annihilation:
“This is a serious, considered film,” writes Richard Lawson in Vanity Fair.
And it is. At once a thriller, a science fiction thought piece, a horror flick, and a tale of environmental catastrophe – while hinting at humanity’s ultimate helplessness against a huge and ruthless universe – Annihilation manages to accomplish many things at once with an expansive and intricate plot.
“For those willing to put in the effort, Annihilation achieves that rare feat of great genre cinema, where audiences are not merely thrilled … but also feel as if their minds have been expanded along the way,” writes Peter Debruge in Variety.
Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Annihilation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance.
Wandering this other-Earth burbling dreamlike within the Shimmer, the explorers amble over a landscape that resembles some videogame fantasy world, where predators roar with the screams of past victims and the intensifying light elides the distinction between illusion and reality.
The message is cryptic, the voice scratchy and resigned to whatever befalls him – the man in captivity has a message for Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise).
“Your mission, should you choose to accept it. I wonder, did you ever choose not to? The end you always feared is coming, and the blood will be on your hands – the fallout of all your good intentions.”
This is the first full trailer for Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth installment in the studio’s leaping, punching, gun-fighting, vehicle-chasing adventure saga.
This time, there will be: betrayal, Paris, packed dance clubs, remote armed outposts, boats cascading through sewers, a man thrown through a bathroom mirror, and at least one game of chicken between a Hunt-driven helicopter and a semi. And plenty more.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout, directed by Christopher McQuarrie and starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin, Wes Bentley and Frederick Schmidt, will be in theaters July 27.
They survive by speaking in signs, by padding their footsteps with painted and powdered trails, by rolling dice on folded blankets. They survive by never making a sound.
In the floodlit dystopia of A Quiet Place, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt cautiously guide their family through a terrifying landscape where something vicious stalks them. And everything will be OK – if they can just keep quiet.
Directed by Krasinski, the film also stars Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds. A Quiet Place will be in theaters April 6, 2018.
Gnomes, those kitschy ceramic ornaments dotted about the suburban lawnscape, are seldom associated with anything more exciting than neighborhood battles over lowered property values. “…the humble garden gnome can … deter many buyers,” warns The Telegraph.
And then along comes Paramount Pictures’ Sherlock Gnomes, a rollicking animated mystery threading through the parks, sewers, waterways and rowhouses of sprawling London. When a backyard’s worth of spunky gnomes vanishes, Gnomeo and Juliet – returning from their eponymous 2011 film – enlist the services of Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) to track them down.
Directed by John Stevenson, the film stars James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine, Ashley Jensen, Matt Lucas, Stephen Merchant and Mary J. Blige. Sherlock Gnomes will hit theaters on March 23, 2018.