Sony film boss Tom Rothman took a moment during his studio’s CinemaCon presentation on Monday night to nod to a new NRG study that investigates the most popular movie stars in Hollywood.
Rothman explained that if the pundits are to believed, “movie stars don’t matter anymore,” adding that he really hopes “all my competitors believe that shit” because he most emphatically disagrees. “True movie stars matter more than ever,” Rothman said. “They are just rarer than ever. Streaming doesn’t create movie stars, only global hits do.”
The veteran studio chief used the hot topic as a way to tee up the presentation’s surprise award presentation — a lifetime achievement award — given to Denzel Washington. It was no coincidence as Rothman explained that over the course of his own 30-plus year career, he has worked on 12 films with Washington either as an actor or as a filmmaker with another, The Equalizer 3, coming this fall. “I have never seen him hit a false note and neither have you,” Rothman praised. “Denzel is a preternatural, enduring, iconic talent.”
Rothman then welcomed someone else with a long history with Washington, Antoine Fuqua, to present the trophy to his longtime collaborator with whom he made the studio’s upcoming sequel. Fuqua made note of Washington’s two Oscar wins and nine nominations and also praised his friend’s particular set of skills. “Audiences have come to know what to expect from Denzel, a sense of honor, dignity and morals, commitment to what’s right and determination to see that through.”
Washington then came out on stage inside a capacity crowd inside the Colosseum at Caesars Palace and was promptly greeted by an enthusiastic standing ovation. He responded by flashing that megawatt movie star smile. “We would be nothing without you all. What we do means nothing if you’re not there, without your houses,” said the actor. “We are here for you, because of you and we thank you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’ve been blessed beyond measure.”
Washington then welcomed his Equalizer 3 co-star Dakota Fanning (his Man on Fire colleague) to the stage and the trio then introduced the debut of the first trailer for the film. The Columbia Pictures title is due in theaters Sept. 1, and it follows Washington and Fuqua outings on 2001’s Training Day, 2014’s The Equalizer and 2018’s The Equalizer 2. It also reunites Washington with Fanning, whom he starred with in Man on Fire.
Directed by Fuqua from a script by Richard Wenk, The Equalizer franchise is based on the TV series created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim.
Washington toplines as Robert McCall, who has given up his life as a government assassin. Struggling to reconcile the horrific things he’s done in the past and finds a strange solace in serving justice on behalf of the oppressed, he finds himself surprisingly at home in Southern Italy. “Because of these people,” Washington says in the trailer, “I’m understanding real peace. I’m starting to believe this is where I’m supposed to be.”
However, his contentment is derailed when he discovers his new friends are under the control of local crime bosses. Fans of the franchise will be pleased to learn that what follows is Washington’s McCall jumping back into action in brutal and bloody ways. When the trailer ended, there was generous applause and this kicker quote from Rothman: “You can see at Sony, we are not fucking around.”
CinemaCon, the official convention of National Association of Theatre Owners, is being held inside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas from April 24-27.