LAS VEGAS – This wasn’t necessarily STX Entertainment’s finest moment. After a rough 2016 that featured one breakout hit (“Bad Moms”), one critically acclaimed wonder (“The Edge Of Seventeen”) and a bunch of bombs, the fledgling mini-major wanted to reassure the nation’s theater owners at CinemaCon that everything was back on track. Well, they certainly tried.
Chairman Adam Fogelson hyped the studio’s three-year distribution agreement with Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp (a company that at one time planned on releasing its own movies in the U.S. and then did an about-face) and its summer release, Besson’s “Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets,” with the director and star Cara Delevingne in attendance. The film’s trailer will be released on Wednesday and the movie looks as wondrous and decadent as promised. The problem was that pretty much everything else seemed forgettable.
James Ponsoldt’s “The Circle”? It’s coming out in a month, and either it’s terrible or STX has no idea how to market it. EuropaCorp’s “Renegades”? Might be a hit if the main cast was recognizable (they are not) and it wasn’t releasing over Labor Day weekend (dump date). “The Foreigner” with Jackie Chan? More a play for China and Asian markets where Chan is still a monster star. “Den Of Thieves”? It’s an action flick about a band of criminals attempting to break into a Federal Reserve facility to steal $120 million. It looks like you’ve seen it 20 times before and it looks like one of its stars, Gerard Butler, has made this movie 20 times before or 20 films similar to it.
Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg also trotted out on stage to announce their new action flick “Mile 22,” which they hope will be the first of a trilogy (joy). Oh, and after the recent box-office disappointments “Deepwater Horizon” and “Patriots Day” Berg made a point of insisting would be “action-packed” and, somehow wanting to reassure the audience even more so, not based on a real story. And, no joke, Wahlberg hopes it’s the role that defines his career. Clearly, he doesn’t consider that to already be either Dirk Diggler from “Boogie Nights” or himself, er, John from the “Ted” movies.
Fogelson also was left trying to generate excitement for “A Bad Moms Christmas,” a sequel that won’t even go into production until next month. Franchise star Mila Kunis came out on stage and all the two could find to talk about was her new baby and the fact Kunis never celebrated the holiday as a Jewish immigrant from the Ukraine. Honestly, we cannot truly convey how awkward it all was. That being said, there was one slight bright moment for STX: “Molly’s Game.”
The directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin, “Molly’s Game” is based on the memoir of Molly Bloom, a former U.S. Olympic skier who ended up running an exclusive, high-stakes poker game for some of the biggest names in Hollywood (although the clientele wasn’t just limited to celebrities). When she moved the game to New York, she ended up starting to take a cut of the pot and yeah, that’s pretty much illegal (and there were money-laundering charges involved too). She eventually made a deal with the government, was sentenced to probation and wrote a book about it, which detailed some of the famous players who frequented her nights, including Tobey Maguire, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, among others.
The movie finds Jessica Chastain playing Bloom, Idris Ebla as her skeptical lawyer, along with Kevin Costner, Chris O’Dowd and Michael Cera, among others. The extended trailer framed the story of that of an incredibly smart woman (she was headed to Harvard Law School before starting the game) who no one took seriously because of her looks and her decision to go a different road. It also will depict how she unexpectedly got in the cross hairs of the Russian and U.S. Mafia and why she really got the FBI’s attention.
STX is selling the movie as a sexy thriller, so it’s hard to tell whether it’s another prestige play for awards-season favorites Chastain and Sorkin or not. The film has a conventional studio feel and, surprisingly, there wasn’t much Sorkin-esque dialogue in the preview. There still isn’t an official release date, but this feels like a flick that would open at Toronto. Is it an awards player? Right now, it’s a commercial play that could be something more. Or maybe not. Needless to say, outside of “Valerian,” it’s the best thing STX’s got coming down the pipeline.
[Note: STX showed a cut trailer, had talent on hand and still doesn’t have one official image of “Molly’s Game” to provide the press.]