Brad Pitt surprises the crowd at CinemaCon

05:00 AM, Apr 16, 2013

Brad Pitt speaks at a Paramount Pictures presentation to promote his upcoming film, 'World War Z,' during CinemaCon. Isaac Brekken, Getty Images/


Written By by Scott Bowles, USA TODAY

LAS VEGAS — It featured the shortest footage and the briefest introduction of the night. But World War Z got CinemaCon off to one of its most raucous starts in years.

That’s what happens when Brad Pitt shows up.

The star stunned attendees of the nation’s largest convention of theater owners Monday night when he took the stage to introduce 10 minutes of footage to his zombie apocalypse thriller, due in theaters June 21.

The two-minute introduction was the buzz of the conference, overshadowing a celebrity-heavy evening for Paramount Pictures, the first of Hollywood’s seven biggest studios here to entice exhibitors to show their films this summer.

The conference is a rare role reversal for theater owners, normally at the mercy of studios when it comes to revenues and release schedules. For four days in Vegas, though, studios bring out their summer films and stars to secure as many of the nation’s 40,000 movie screens as they can for summer, the industry’s most critical season.

Pitt made quite the impression. Parts of his speech were drowned out by screams of “I love you!” from the normally staid crowd of more than 6,000 exhibitors who packed the Caesars Palace theater for Paramount’s slate. The presentation included an introduction from the stars of Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17), and a screening of Michael Bay’s action-comedy Pain & Gain (April 26).

Pitt, sporting a loose ponytail, told the crowd that “five years ago, I knew absolutely nothing about a zombie. Today I consider myself an expert.”

He says he joined the Marc Forster film “because I wanted to do a film my boys could see before they turned 18. One that they would like, anyways. And they love a zombie.”

Pitt says that one of the challenges of doing War, which centers on a global zombie outbreak that turns a human into the living dead in 12 seconds, was in staking a claim in a hot genre “that’s been done quite often and done really, really well.”

After acknowledging that he and the crew “got a little carried away” with the mayhem, Pitt introduced 3-D footage that included thousands of fleet-footed zombies who look as though they’re on steroids.

The stars of Star Trek got the evening rolling with 18 minutes of footage, also in 3-D, of the sequel to the 2009 hit.

Chris Pine, who reprises his role as Capt. James Kirk, says that the film finds Kirk trying to earn his rank as captain.

I think in the first film, Kirk got the chair a bit too prematurely,” Pine says. “He was brash, headstrong, a kid, a punk. You can expect a lot more vulnerability from this young man trying to find his way.”

Bay rounded out the evening with Gain, the true story starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson about Florida bodybuilders who find themselves in a Florida extortion ring.

The director of the Transformers series, who called Gain a pet project for the past 12 years, says he did the movie because he was “tired of the press saying I can only do multi-hundred-million-dollar movies. ” At $25 million, he said, “Pain & Gain is my little movie.”

Even if the stars aren’t. Wahlberg and Johnson gave a quick video introduction to the CinemaCon crowd, which was clearly disappointed they did not show up personally. Wahlberg explained that they wanted to attend the conference, but Bay had them tirelessly promoting the movie overseas.