Universal Pictures Flaunts Its Future Blockbusters: ‘Wicked’ ‘Twisters’ and ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ Sequel at CinemaCon 2024


Following a victorious year in 2023, marked by a Best Picture win and a domination of the box office, Universal Pictures set sights on the horizon, revealing tantalizing glimpses of its high-profile forthcoming films during the star-studded CinemaCon event in Las Vegas. The glitzy affair featured a parade of A-listers, including the likes of Ariana Grande, Cynthia Erivo, and Jeff Goldblum, as the studio showcased its diverse slate, including the much-anticipated film adaptation of the musical phenomenon “Wicked,” the storm-chasing thriller “Twisters,” and a surprise announcement of a sequel to the successful “Five Nights at Freddy’s.”

Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, who star in the cinematic adaptation of “Wicked,” graced the Las Vegas event to present new footage from the feature, which is slated for a Thanksgiving release. Grande commented on the overwhelming experience, a sentiment echoed by Jeff Goldblum, set to appear as the infamous Wizard. Goldblum, fraught with iconic roles in cinematically grand tales involving dinosaurs and spaceships, praised “Wicked” for its unique enchantment and “dreamy” production.

This fantasy musical hit, directed by Jon M. Chu, stars Erivo as the misunderstood Elphaba and Grande as the bubbly Glinda, with Michelle Yeoh portraying their school headmistress. Adding to the stellar cast, Peter Dinklage will bring to life the well-read goat and professor, Dr. Dillamond. Marc Platt, who has shepherded “Wicked” from a novel to Broadway, has long envisioned the story for the silver screen, assisted by Stephen Schwartz’s persuasive argument for its musical transformation. The grandiose vision that Chu and his team hold for the film promises to elevate it to beyond the expectations set by its theatrical precursor. “Wicked” fans will taste the magic with part one releasing on November 25, and part two to follow during the Thanksgiving period of 2025.

In contrast to the musical realm, “Twisters” emerges as a thrilling companion to the 1996 blockbuster, creating anticipation with new footage introduced by cast member Glen Powell. Acclaimed “Minari” director Lee Isaac Chung helms this natural disaster epic, with a production team backed by Frank Marshall and Steven Spielberg, the latter known for his fascination with tornadoes. Chung’s vision is one of immersion and excitement, assuring an exhilarating cinematic experience.

Universal’s current stature as the top-grossing studio is attributed to its remarkable 2023 performance, boasting a roster of widely popular titles such as “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and the Christopher Nolan-helmed biopic “Oppenheimer.” These and other hits like “M3GAN” and the original “Five Nights at Freddy’s” propelled the studio to an impressive total nearing $5 billion in ticket sales. Universal’s distribution head, Jim Orr, highlighted the audience’s craving for fresh cinematic ventures and mentioned the studio’s strategy of releasing a diverse array of films to theaters.

The studio has an ambitious lineup for 2024, spanning over 20 theatrical releases, including original titles and continuations of established franchises. Chris Meledandri, of Illumination, teased “Despicable Me 4” and hinted at an upcoming Mario feature, while reiterating his commitment to producing original animated films. Adding to the animated offerings, DreamWorks Animation plans to release “The Wild Robot” in September, with Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o voicing a key character, directed by “Lilo & Stitch’s” Chris Sanders.

Not to be outdone by family-friendly fare, Universal’s slate also teems with anticipated horror releases, such as “Wolf Man,” “Speak No Evil,” and “Five Nights at Freddy’s 2,” demonstrating the genre’s consistent box office pull. Focus Features, Universal’s independent film division, showcased titles like Ethan Hawke’s “Asteroid City” and revealed upcoming projects including Sam Taylor-Johnson’s “Back to Black” and Robert Eggers’ “Nosferatu.”

As CinemaCon attendees absorbed the myriad of enticing previews, Donna Langley, Chairman of NBC Universal Studio Group, expressed gratitude to exhibitors and emphasized Universal’s commitment to continual improvement and innovation. The successful year behind them served only as a foundation for even greater achievements, with Universal Pictures ardently believing in a future where their best projects are perennially on the horizon.

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