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September 24, 2017

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Studios wheel out the stars for CinemaCon

LAS VEGAS -- Some of Hollywood's biggest movie studios took center stage at the CinemaCon on Tuesday — wheeling out a vast array of stars to promote their upcoming slates of blockbusters.

Historic "major" Paramount competed with new kid on the block STX for the loudest applause at the annual Las Vegas gathering for the "exhibition community" of theater operators and audio and visual tech innovators.

And while Disney traditionally keeps back most of its juiciest surprises for its own D23 Expo, the studio treated delegates to a world premiere of the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, "Dead Men Tell No Tales."

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

STX, in business for just two years, was first up, putting forward legendary sci-fi director Luc Besson to present footage from his latest adventure, "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets."

The 58-year-old French auteur has made a string of hits, including "The Fifth Element," "Leon: The Professional," "Lucy" and "Nikita."

But he said his upcoming movie has been a passion project since he began reading the serialized 1960s comics from Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres on which it is based.

"There was no internet, no YouTube, nothing and you had to wait a week to get two more pages," he told delegates at CinemaCon.

"I got totally addicted ... It was so cool at the time, really new and I never stopped thinking about it."

'Female power'

The US$180 million "Valerian" — which comes out on July 21 — centers on a dark force threatening Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets.

Blacks ops agents Valerian (Dean DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard the universe.

The audience was treated to a new trailer, a surreal but self-aware fever dream in vivid 3-D featuring a huge, drooling CGI dog-like monster that rips a bus apart, as well of plenty of large Zen-like aliens and desert vistas with echoes of Mad Max.

Numerous stars, including Jessica Chastain, Aaron Sorkin, Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis took to the stage to discuss upcoming projects in various stages of development.

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