CinemaCon 2024 Recap: Paramount Pictures Leans On “Gladiator 2” to Deliver Box Office Victory

Paramount Pictures had a dominating presence at CinemaCon 2024, taking over many of the statues throughout Caesar’s Palace to promote Gladiator 2. Their Thanksgiving tentpole also kicked off their studio showcase during a presentation that was more about name-dropping projects in development than those on the immediate horizon.

Chris Aronson, President of Domestic Distribution, rode onto the stage of The Colosseum in a chariot, flanked by a spartan army composed of Las Vegas performers.

(Jerod Harris/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

(Jerod Harris/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

The other title with a big presence throughout CinemaCon this year was If from writer/director John Krasinski. This family-friendly comedy pairs Ryan Reynolds with a young girl on a mission to pair discarded imaginary friends with children in need. For fans of The Office, the lead If, a purple monster named Blue, is voiced by Steve Carrell, reuniting Michael Scott and Jim (off-screen). The most recent trailer was played on the big screen for attendees, with an If-themed dinner party one of the nights. If comes to theaters on May 17th.

Paramount Pictures President and CEO Brian Robbins was the next presenter, jokingly tapping into rumors of the studio being sold by introducing a Kickstarter campaign to keep Paramount as its own studio entity. He then plugged some of the first-look deals Paramount has with clout-heavy creatives, including Damian Chazelle (La La Land), Lorenzo di Bonaventura (Transformers) Neal Morritz (Sonic the Hedgehog), Jeff Rowe (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem), and Parker Finn (Smile). He also called out a few other projects, including a new Star Trek origin story, a G.I. Joe/Transformers crossover event, a Bee Gees biopic from Ridley Scott, and a musical film from Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park, The Book of Mormon).

(Jerod Harris/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

(Jerod Harris/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

Transformers fans don’t have to wait for the G.I. Joe crossover for their next big screen outing, thanks to the animated film Transformers One, releasing on September 13th. Voice stars Chris Hemsworth and Brian Tyree Henry were present to introduce a behind-the-scenes look and introduce a clip, with 3D glasses handed out just for this moment. The film follows a young Optimus Prime and Megatron (known as Orion Pax and D-16 in the film), with Chris Hemsworth giving a shoutout to legendary voice actor Peter Cullen, who has voiced Optimus Prime in all previous animated and live-action Transformers media. Scarlet Johansson also prepared a video greeting for CinemaCon attendees before rolling the clip.

(Jerod Harris/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

(Jerod Harris/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

The footage we saw featured Orion Pax, D-16, and Elita-1 finally getting to the surface of Cybertron. They sneak on top of a train only to find that the terrain is constantly changing, shooting spikes out of the ground, and threatening to derail the train.

Despite being animated and having kid-friendly designs, the footage shown used language that sits on the edge of PG and PG-13. Transformers One is directed by Josh Cooley (Toy Story 4), with animation produced through Industrial Light & Magic, a division of Lucasfilm that has worked on the live-action Transformers films.

Brian Robbins also shared some casting news for Smurfs, which was first announced at last year’s event with Rhianna attached to voice Smurfette. Kurt Russell, Amy Sedaris, Natasha Lyonne, and Dan Levy were among the actors on a graphic that was briefly displayed. Smurfs hits theaters on February 25th, 2025.

2025 will also see the release of two films from Nickelodeon. Dave Bautista has been added to the voice cast of Aang: The Last Airbender, the first of three films from Avatar: The Last Airbender. And Christmas 2025 will see the release of The SpongeBob Movie: Search for SquarePants.

(Jerod Harris/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

(Jerod Harris/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

A Quiet Place: Day One was promoted at last year’s event, but was delayed by the strike. Stars Lupita Nyong'o and Joseph Quinn were present to promote the June 28th release, debuting an extended trailer. The film is set in New York City on the day of the invasion, with the noisiest city in the world suddenly forced to be as quiet as possible.

Paramount will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar with a theatrical re-release. Cinephiles will be excited to learn that this re-release includes both 70mm and digital options for exhibitors, including IMAX.

Next up were two first-looks, starting with Paramount Christmas 2024 release, Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Production recently wrapped, but Jim Carrey sent a video greeting in-character as Dr. Robotnik, which led into some footage from the film, which introduces Shadow, a villainous hedgehog.

Halloween seems like the perfect time for Smile 2, and Brian Robbins took a moment to remind attendees that the first film was made for Paramount+ but released theatrically instead, becoming a box office success. The teaser followed a pop star on tour, interacting with fans who seemed to be incapable of giving anything back but a wide-stretched grin.

Despite all of the efforts put into promoting Gladiator 2, none of the cast were on hand for the footage reveal. There was, however, a video introduction from Ridley Scott, which led to some cast greetings from Pedro Pascal, Denzel Washington, and Paul Mescal. We got to see five minutes' worth of footage, which framed Pedro Pascal as someone of high rank filling the actual Coliseum with gladiators, including Paul Mescal, who feels like the central character. This sequel leans heavily on CGI animals, with sequences including fights against rhinos, plus a shark-filled arena battle. It all looks big and epic, but potentially too far removed from the original to feel like a proper sequel. The film is scheduled for a Thanksgiving release.

Final Assessment

Paramount started 2024 off with a strong start, thanks to Mean Girls and Bob Marley: One Love. The rest of the year looks light, but If feels like it has the potential to become a big hit for family audiences this summer. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 seems like another easy sell for families this Christmas, especially in an era when films based on video games seem to be a path to box office success.

The two horror films on the slate — A Quite Place: Day One and Smile 2 — are also likely successes. However, I’m not as sold on Transformers One, which seems aimed at an older audience than the visuals indicate and feels low stakes due to the prequel nature of the story.

Gladiator 2 is undoubtedly the biggest risk. The Oscar-winning original film has a lot of clout, and the footage looks exciting. But beyond that, it also felt like a remake more than a sequel, coming twenty years after the original with little carryover. And it hits theaters during the overloaded Thanksgiving timeframe, where it will literally go into battle against other big-screen spectacles. Can these gladiators win against Universal’s witches (Wicked) and Disney’s wayfinder (Moana 2)? Theatergoers will decide.

Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).