By Brent Lang
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Universal brought Snow White, Bourne and a battleship to CinemaCon on Thursday in the hopes of astonishing theater owners, but all it really needed to pack was a pot-smoking teddy bear.
With a reported budget of $65 million, Seth MacFarlane's "Ted" was made for a fraction of what it cost to blow up half the Navy in "Battleship," but the resounding laughter that greeted the extended footage indicates the studio might have a huge R-rated hit on its hands.
The film centers on a boy whose Christmas wish comes true after his teddy bear comes to life. But that dream turns more nightmarish when the pair grows up.
Universal highlighted the stuffed bear, played by McFarlane in a motion-capture suit, hanging out with prostitutes, taking hits from a bong and humping a cash register - all activities that would be pretty foreign to, say, Winnie the Pooh.
Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis star along with MacFarlane. The reaction was so enthusiastic that Adam Fogelson, Universal Pictures chairman who was emceeing the event, probably did not mind when he found himself the target of MacFarlane's raunchy zingers.
"You have the boyish charm of Rick Santorum," MacFarlane told Fogelson.
Later, MacFarlane dared the studio chief to expose himself. Fogelson opted to keep his appendage in trou.
Universal also screened footage of "Snow White and the Huntsman," bringing out stars Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron to preview an extended trailer that has the title character leading a band of knights and dwarves to battle against the wicked queen.
The film is a spectacular epic, directed by a first-time talent, Rupert Sanders, who spun a world of mythical creatures, an imperiously evil Theron and a dark look that is miles removed from the rococo Snow White picture from Relativity, "Mirror, Mirror."
The studio also gave exhibitors a look at "Battleship," which hits these shores on May 18, but has already debuted in many foreign territories. It has grossed north of $150 million, so something must work, but it just seemed to pummel convention-goers into submission with its pyrotechnics and jingoism.
More interesting were "The Savages," a dark thriller that Fogelson said would return director Oliver Stone to the ultra-violent territory he covered in his script for "Scarface" and "Natural Born Killers." The movie, which centers on two pot dealers whose mutual girlfriend (Blake Lively) is kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel, looks to ride the knife's edge. Salma Hayek plays a drug lord, while John Travolta plays a crooked D.E.A. agent.
Travolta came on stage and said he had never worked with "...such decent people doing such awful things." As for the Bourne franchise, Fogelson said that after Matt Damon passed on a fourth installment, the studio wanted to open up the paranoid world of the thrillers without recasting the lead.
He said that Universal had decided to let Bourne swim off into the Hudson, his memory restored, "for now," holding out the possibility that Damon could be in for a big payday down the road.
"The Bourne Legacy" sees Jeremy Renner taking over as another super-assassin on the run from the government. Based on the early footage, he is equally adept at turning from prey to predator and single-handedly tearing through an intelligence agency.
Looking farther ahead, Universal also previewed glimpses of its winter and spring slate, including footage from the "This is 40," which centers on the "Knocked Up" characters played by Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd; "Les Misérables" with Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman flexing their singing voices; and the 3D martial arts adventure "47 Ronin."