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Amid layoffs, Disney touts upcoming film slate at CinemaCon

Apr 26, 2023, 12:24 PM

Tony Chambers, the head of theatrical distribution for Disney Entertainment, addresses the audience...

Tony Chambers, the head of theatrical distribution for Disney Entertainment, addresses the audience during the Walt Disney Studios presentation at CinemaCon 2023, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) at Caesars Palace, Wednesday, April 26, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Amid a week of massive layoffs at Disney, the leadership team of its film arm gathered in Las Vegas on Wednesday to tout its successes and upcoming slate of films to a crowd of theater owners and exhibitors.

The keep audiences buying movie tickets.

Alan Bergman, the co-chair of Disney Entertainment, took the stage inside the Colosseum theater at Caesars Palace first.

“I wanted to come and personally thank you for your support,” Bergman said. “I know how difficult it’s been over the past few years and its great that the business is finally coming back.”

Disney has been the top-grossing studio globally every year since 2016. Last year the company released four of the 10 top-grossing movies domestically. Those four movies — “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” — accounted for 27% of the domestic box office share. Globally, “Avatar: The Way of Water” grossed over $2.3 billion to become the third most successful film of all time.

The company is undergoing layoffs this week, through Thursday, in its second round this year. ambitious companywide cost-savings plan and “strategic reorganization.” The job cuts amount to about 3% of the entertainment giant’s global workforce and are part of a targeted $5.5 billion cost savings across the Burbank-based company.

In Las Vegas, Tony Chambers, head of theatrical distribution, said Disney has always — pre-, during and post-pandemic — “delivered a fantastic array of stories for your theaters and our upcoming slate is no exception.”

This year will mark the first time since 2019 that Disney will have theatrical releases for films from all seven of its production studios: 20th Century, Lucasfilm, Marvel, Disney, Pixar, Disney Animation and Searchlight.

Still to come in 2023 is a theme park-ride movie with Justin Simien’s “Haunted Mansion” (July 28) starring Danny DeVito and Owen Wilson, a live-action “Little Mermaid” (May 26), a new Indiana Jones film, Marvel releases in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” (May 5) and “The Marvels,” a Disney Animation musical “Wish” with Ariana DeBose and Chris Pine, and Pixar original “Elemental” (June 16).

Several recent Pixar titles were sent straight to Disney+ during the pandemic, including “Soul,” “Luca,” and “Turning Red.” On Wednesday, Disney gave “Elemental,” a theatrical-first release (and a Cannes film festival premiere), a meaty showcase, debuting 20 minutes in 3D from the film about a city where all the elements live together but separately.

Disney’s CinemaCon presentations often stick to the films, not the celebrities, but this year they had a few surprises in store: Melissa McCarthy.

Ford, in a pre-recorded video message, introduced an exciting chase scene from “Indiana Jones 5.”

“Playing Indiana Jones over the years has meant the world to me,” Ford said. “We’re thrilled for everyone to experience out film on the biggest and best screens June 30.”

“Indiana Jones” is also having its world debut at Cannes next month.

McCarthy, who voices Ursula in “The Little Mermaid” was in person to introduce a clip of her singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”

“Ursula is kind of everything. She’s dishy. She’s a conniving broad,” McCarthy said. “Maybe that’s why I relate.”

Other upcoming releases include Kenneth Branagh’s “A Haunting in Venice” (Sept. 15), “The Boogeyman” (June 2) and the sci-fi drama “The Creator” (Sept. 29), with John David Washington, from 20th Century Studios.

Searchlight has the loving satire “Theater Camp” (July 14), and Taika Waititi’s comedic soccer film “Next Goal Wins” (Nov. 17), based on the story of a Dutch American coach (played by Michael Fassbender) who is sent to coach the struggling American Samoa national football team. The trailer had the audience laughing and clapping.

Chambers did not mention “Magazine Dreams,” with Jonathan Majors, which earlier this year was set for release on Dec. 8 year after its successful Sundance debut. Majors, who is also the new main villain of the Marvel world, Kang, was arrested in March on an assault charge. A lawyer for Majors denied any wrongdoing by the actor.

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