Sizing Up the CinemaCon Awards, Which Are Pretty On Point This Year


CinemaCon AwardsGetty Images

It’s that time of year again! CinemaCon is upon us, kicking off next week in Las Vegas, where the six major studios, Lionsgate and relative newcomers like STX and Amazon Studios will showcase their upcoming films for theater owners and members of the press.

As they do every year, CinemaCon has bestowed more than a dozen awards upon actors, directors, producers and other members of the industry, so let’s take you through this year’s honorees, shall we?

Jordan Peele CinemaConGetty Images

Director of the Year: – It’s hard to argue with this one, as Peele’s directorial debut Get Out has grossed nearly $140 million at the domestic box office alone, on a meager budget of just $5 million. But forget about all that profit for a second, and note the film’s 99% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics flipped for Get Out, which tackles tricky racial issues under the guise of a horror movie. The best genre films double as social commentary, and Peele managed to strike a chord outside of his comedy safety zone in his very first chance at bat. Talk about impressive…

Chris Meledandri CinemaConGetty Images

Producer of the Year: Chris Meledandri – The Illumination Entertainment founder probably should’ve received this award last year, when The Secret Life of Pets and Sing each grossed more than $590 million worldwide. Instead, CinemaCon chose to honor Meledandri this year as Illumination prepares to release Despicable Me 3 this summer. The last film nearly grossed $1 billion worldwide, so the Con’s high hopes are more than merited, and next year brings How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Charlie Hunnam CinemaConGetty Images

Male Star of the Year: Charlie Hunnam – CinemaCon could’ve gone a number of ways with this one, but the organization decided to back Hunnam, the star of WB’s summer tentpole King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which the studio hopes will launch a medieval franchise. Hunnam made a name for himself on with Sons of Anarchy and Queer as Folk, but Hollywood is in desperate need of leading men and film would love to see King Arthur outperform Hunnam’s Pacific Rim stateside. We’ll see if the charisma Hunnam has shown on the small screen can translate from behind a sword and a shield. He also has The Lost City of Z and a remake of Papillon on the horizon.

Jessica Chastain CinemaConGetty Images

Female Star of the Year: – She’s had higher-profile years thanks to turns in Insterstellar, The Martian and Zero Dark Thirty, but she should be back in the awards race this year with her lead role in Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game. Chastain has never been a huge box office driver, which is why this selection could be perceived as a bit of a head-scratcher, but she’s a phenomenal actress who’s poised to continue surprising people with her work in Molly’s Game and The Zookeeper’s Wife. For what it’s worth, I thought her ferocious performance in Miss Sloane was sorely overlooked last year.

Ansel Elgort CinemaConGetty Images

Male Star of Tomorrow: Ansel Elgort – CinemaCon nailed it with this one, as Elgort is said to fulfill the potential he showed in The Fault In Our Stars with his starring turn in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, which brought the house down at SXSW. Now, TFiOS was going to be a huge hit no matter who starred in it because of the book’s large fan base, so Elgort is no doubt eager to prove his drawing power, and this couldn’t be a better vehicle for his talents.

Sofia Boutella CinemaConGetty Images

Female Star of Tomorrow: – Like Elgort, this is another solid selection by the CinemaCon gang, as Kingsmen breakout Boutella the title character opposite Tom Cruise in The Mummy, which kicks off Universal’s classic Monsterverse. She also has a saucy role alongside Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, which left SXSW with strong buzz in advance of its July 28 release.

Isabella Moner CinemaConGetty Images

Rising Star of the Year: Isabella Moner – The young lead of Transformers: The Last Knight is being bred for stardom by Viacom, which plucked her from its Nickelodeon network to star opposite Mark Wahlberg and Bumblebee in Paramount’s big-budget sequel. Up next? A supporting role in the Sicario sequel Soldado. Not too shabby for being 15 years old…

Brenton Thwaites CinemaConGetty Images

Breakthrough Performer of the Year: – The Australian heartthrob has had a few chances to make an impression — think Gods of Egypt, The Giver and Maleficent — but none bigger than Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, in which he a key new character who is said to fall for Kaya Scodelario. This blockbuster will be setting sail at CinemaCon, so clearly Disney is confident, otherwise it wouldn’t risk the bad buzz. Unfortunately, anyone who breaks embargo will be forced to walk the plank, so you’ll have to be patient to find out whether Thwaites delivers or not. In the meantime, check him out in the little-seen indie thriller Son of a Gun with Ewan McGregor and Alicia Vikander.

Kumail Nanjiani CinemaConGetty Images

Comedy Star of the Year: –  An inspired pick from the CinemaCon commission, as the Silicon Valley star just wowed Sundance audiences in Michael Showalter’s comedy The Big Sick, which sold to Amazon for $10 million following a bidding war. Nanjiani also co-wrote the script with his wife Emily Gordon, proving he’s a man of many talents. We’re just glad the Con is recognizing an original voice and not just the star of another big, dumb broad comedy… not that there’s anything wrong with those.

John Cena CinemaConGetty Images

Star of the Year: – Well, you can’t give this award to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson every year, so Cena’s anointment was inevitable given those formidable biceps. It’s refreshing to have an action star actually look like an action star, which is half the battle these days. I think Doug Liman’s The Wall looks great, but it’s unclear how much Cena will be asked to do in that film, seeing as he’s critically wounded early on in the trailer. Still, expect big things from Cena, who simply has to have a comic book movie in his future. If not, he’s fared very well in comedies such as Trainwreck and Sisters. Watch out, Kumail…

Eugenio Derbez CinemaConGetty Images

International Achievement in Comedy: Eugenio Derbez – Following the smashing success of the hit comedy Instructions Not Included, the Mexican multi-hyphenate is laughing all the way to the bank these days, and his latest film How to Be a Latin Lover is slated to seduce audiences next month. Meanwhile, he’s also set to star in MGM’s Overboard remake alongside Anna Faris. Comedy doesn’t always translate across borders, but Derbez doesn’t seem to have that problem thanks to his playful and accessible sense of humor.

Sandberg and Ronning CinemaConGetty Images

International Filmmakers of the Year: Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg – If Thwaites is the breakthrough performer of the year, it stands to reason that the Pirates 5 directors would earn some kind of recognition for taking the wheel of a fading franchise and (hopefully) restoring it to its past glory. The Kon-Tiki filmmakers are said to deliver the goods with the swashbuckling sequel, which has Javier Bardem joining Johnny Depp.

Salma Hayek CinemaConGetty Images

Vanguard Award: – I don’t really know what the Vanguard Award is or what one has to do to receive it, I just know I loved Hayek’s animated Teresa del Taco in Sausage Party last year, and by all accounts she’s excellent opposite John Lithgow in the Sundance-approved indie Beatriz at Dinner. She also has How to Be a Latin Lover, Drunk Parents with Alec Baldwin and The Hitman’s Bodyguard with Ryan Reynolds coming out this year. The latter film will debut at CinemaCon more than four months before it hits theaters, indicating that Lionsgate thinks it has a winner on its hands.

Naomi Watts CinemaConGetty Images

Distinguished Decade of Achievement in : – It’s hard to believe that no one in America really knew who Watts was in 2001, when David Lynch’s acclaimed Mulholland Drive catapulted her to stardom. Since then, she has starred in The Ring, King Kong and Birdman, and been nominated for two Oscars. She’s poised for a big year in 2017 between Colin Trevorrow’s The Book of Henry, Destin Daniel Cretton’s The Glass Castle and the boxing movie Chuck. She also stars in the new Netflix series Gypsy and will appear on Showtime’s Twin Peaks.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs CinemaConGetty Images

Pioneer of the Year: – This is a well-deserved honor, given how Boone Isaacs started the Academy’s A2020 initiative, which calls for more diversity and inclusion within the organization’s ranks. By inviting people of color into the Academy, Boone Isaacs helped shake up the membership and so far, it looks like it’s working, seeing as how Moonlight just won Best Picture in a close race.

Goldie Hawn CinemaConGetty Images

2017 Cinema Icon: – She’s a true icon of cinema, so it’s more than fitting that she should receive this award. Plus, all of her hit movies are now being remade throughout Hollywood (Anna Faris is doing Overboard, Rebel Wilson is doing Private Benjamin), so she’d better win an award, even if it’s 35 years too late. Though Hawn hasn’t starred in a movie since 2002’s The Banger Sisters, she returns to the big screen in May with Snatched, in which she Amy Schumer’s mother. They should be a fun pair to watch over Mother’s Day weekend.

We don’t really have anything to add regarding Paramount’s Mark Christiansen receiving the Passepartout Award, Foothill Entertainment’s Byron Berkley receiving the NATO Marquee Award, Vox Cinemas receiving the Global Achievement in Exhibition Award or Turner Classic Movies receiving the Excellence in Event Cinema Award, but hey, congratulations all the same, and viva Las Vegas!

  | Editor in Chief

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