While Apple and Amazon Talk About Supporting Theaters, It Is Angel Studios That Will Present at CinemaCon

If you want to prove you’re committed to the continued survival of movie theaters, a great way to do it is to make a showing at the annual CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas. It’s when studios go all out to wine and dine exhibitors, and screen previews of their upcoming film slates, hoping to squeeze out a few extra screens from your local multiplex.

This year, CinemaCon will feature a distributor on stage at Caesar’s Palace in front of every theater owner in the country, out to prove its dedication to theatrical. It’s not Apple, or Amazon and MGM, or Sony, which opened last year’s convention but will sit out this year. It’s Angel Studios, the distributor behind last year’s surprise box-office smash “Sound of Freedom.”

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“Sound of Freedom” was the summer blockbuster about child sex trafficking that grossed $250 million worldwide. At $184 million domestic, it was the 10th highest grossing movie of 2023, ahead of “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1,” “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and even “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.” A unique marketing strategy, Angel Studios’ innovative Pay It Forward, allowed people to buy tickets for strangers and boost box office numbers. The film also kicked up a right-wing political firestorm.

The movie also gave the faith-based distributor the infrastructure it needed to bolster its theatrical distribution division. Angel Studios had a booth at CinemaCon last year and a representative made remarks prior to a breakfast panel. This year, Angel will present its slate as the main program Wednesday morning at 7:45 am in the Palace Ballroom, a time slot previously held by Neon and Entertainment Studios.

In addition to “Sound of Freedom,” Angel saw modest box office success with “After Death” and “The Shift;” each grossed about $12 million worldwide. In overall 2023 domestic box office, the distributor placed eighth.

Ahead of CinemaCon, Angel will release “Cabrini” on March 8. At some point in 2024, it will also release the World War II spy story “Bonhoefer” and the animated musical “David” about David and Goliath. Both are expected to preview at CinemaCon. The distributor also acquired the biopic film “Sight” starring Greg Kinnear, for a May 24 release.

Angel Studios did not return IndieWire’s request for comment about its upcoming presentation.

As to why Sony will not be present at this year’s CinemaCon, an individual with knowledge tells IndieWire the studio fully expects to be back next year and is still fully invested in theaters (it doesn’t have a streaming service of its own). This year, it’s focused on getting movies ready for theatrical release after last year’s strikes. A CinemaCon presentation means racing out early looks at trailers for much of a studio’s theatrical slate, and Sony decided not to add to any post-production logjams.

Sony’s “Madame Web” opens this month and “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” opens March 22. Among the titles it might have featured at CinemaCon are “The Garfield Movie” (May 24), “Bad Boys 4” (June 14), “Kraven the Hunter” (August 30) and the next “Karate Kid” movie (December 13).

Sony also has Apple’s two theatrical movies for 2024 with “Wolfs” starring Brad Pitt (September 20) and the Scarlett Johansson-Channing Tatum film previously titled “Project Artemis” (July 12). Last year, Apple movies “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Napoleon” were showcased in the Paramount and Sony presentations, respectively. Reps for Apple did not respond to a request for comment about its presence at this year’s CinemaCon.

That leaves Amazon and MGM. Back in late 2022, the year Amazon acquired MGM, theater stocks jumped at the news that Amazon planned to make 12-15 movies for theaters per year, with an annual spend of $1 billion. A rep says that though Amazon and MGM will not be doing any presentations this year, its teams will have a presence on the ground in Las Vegas.

In 2023, its six theatrical releases (via labels MGM and Orion) included “Air,” “Saltburn,” “American Fiction,” and “Boys in the Boat,” with smaller releases for the acquisitions “Cassandro” and “Foe.”

Upcoming in theaters for 2024 are at least five titles: “Challengers” starring Zendaya (April 24), the biopic of American professional boxer Claressa “T-Rex” Shields in “Flint Strong” (August 9), Zoe Kravitz’s “Blink Twice” (August 23), Christmas action-adventure movie with Chris Evans and Dwayne Johnson, “Red One” (November 15) and recent Sundance acquisition “My Old Ass.” Doug Liman’s “Road House” remake, which opens SXSW Film, will not open in theaters.

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