Disney and Warner Bros. go head to head at CinemaCon

Donald Glover is cast as a young Lando Calrissian in the much-anticipated "Solo: A Star Wars Story"

Las Vegas (AFP) – Hollywood rolled out the big guns at the CinemaCon convention on Tuesday as Disney and Warner Bros. locked horns with rival presentations of their upcoming movies.

Disney kicked off the day of the big beasts at the annual Las Vegas film industry get-together with footage from its hotly-anticipated “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” while Warner answered the challenge by wowing fans with new images from “Aquaman.”

Disney traditionally keeps back its juiciest surprises for its own biennial D23 Expo, but delighted delegates with footage of the first meeting between Alden Ehrenreich’s young Han Solo and Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian.

Scenes from the Ron Howard movie — the second “Star Wars” spinoff after “Rogue One” (2016) — showed the pair’s encounter in a sleazy dive bar on a snowbound world, watched by a colorful menagerie of new alien characters. 

There was also a glimpse of what looked like the pivotal moment in “Star Wars” lore when Han wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando in a card game.

– Innovators –

Hollywood decamps to the Nevada desert for four days every year, taking over the iconic Caesar’s Palace hotel to show theater owners what they can expect to be making their money from over the following 12 to 24 months.

While most studios wheel out their biggest stars to promote their performances, Disney opted this year to let its movies do the talking. 

The audience was treated to preview footage of Tim Burton’s “Dumbo,” Jon Favreau’s “The Lion King,” and a behind-the-scenes making-of featurette for Guy Ritchie’s “Aladdin.” All three movies are due out next year.

“Aladdin is one of those perfect stories. It just burrows down inside of you,” the movie’s star Will Smith said in a preview video.

CinemaCon was also shown a new trailer for “Ant-Man and the Wasp” as well as the opening sequence of animation “Incredibles 2” from Disney-owned Pixar and scenes from Rob Marshall’s upcoming holiday release, “Mary Poppins Returns,” starring Emily Blunt.

There was a marked difference in presentation style as Warner Bros. previewed its slate later in the day, adding some welcome pizzazz with a roll call of its biggest stars.

It set out its stall with a parade its DC Comics superheroes, treating delegates to behind-the-scenes footage from “Aquaman” and sending director James Wan onstage to introduce a “work-in-progress” trailer.

The footage of what is expected to be one of this year’s big Christmas films gave delegates a glimpse at the mythical underwater world of Atlantis, its residents riding sea horses into battle.

Comedian and actor Will Arnett, playing host on behalf of Warner Bros., lightheartedly chided “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa for indulging in some rather colorful language.

“You went from ‘Game of Thrones’ to ‘Aquaman,’” Arnett told the Polynesian American, his mouth curling into a smirk. 

“Does it feel good to work in something that’s more realistic?”

Fans of Momoa, who got his break on HBO’s “Thrones” as Dothraki warrior king Khal Drogo, enjoyed the spectacle of the musclebound 38-year-old pulling a submarine out of the water.

– Cheeky questions –

“Have you ever wanted to play a character who wears a shirt?” Arnett demanded to know, as Momoa, joined onstage by co-stars Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, took the cheeky line of enquiry in good spirit.

Warner showed a brief sizzle reel of the numerous superhero projects in its DC Extended Universe pipeline, featuring David F. Sandberg’s “Shazam!” and Patty Jenkins chatting about “Wonder Woman 2,” which she revealed will be set in the 1980s.

Warner showcased Melissa McCarthy comedy “Life of the Party” before the cast of female-skewed heist spin-off “Ocean’s 8” — led by Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett — took to the stage.

Arnett introduced “Small Foot,” with stars Channing Tatum, Zendaya, and Common addressing the crowd, and “Mowgli,” directed by Andy Serkis, who appeared alongside Blanchett and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Bradley Cooper turned up to talk “A Star is Born,” which he stars in and directs, showing a trailer of the love story between his character and pop sensation Lady Gaga’s. 

“I always wanted to tell a love story and this project was around before and it always stayed with me… to me, music is the purest way you can communicate love,” Cooper said.

Entertainment writers and other industry professionals reacted positively to what they saw, but appeared most excited about “Aquaman,” a standalone spin-off from the critically-savaged 2017 ensemble feature “Justice League.”

“This is DC’s next big hit… and will make everyone forget about Justice League,” tweeted box office analysis firm Exhibitor Relations.