Paramount shows ‘Gladiator 2’ as Disney goes R-rated

LAS VEGAS  -  Paramount Pictures unveiled gory first-look footage from “Gladiator 2” as Disney put on an unusually R-rat­ed presentation for movie theater bosses at the final day of CinemaCon in Las Vegas on Thursday. In an ex­tended trailer for the long-awaited “Gladiator” sequel, star Paul Mes­cal does battle in a Colosseum filled with rhinos, bloodthirsty baboons and even floating Roman warships, egged on by Denzel Washington’s shadowy advisor. “It is possibly more extraordinary than the first,” said director Ridley Scott, speaking via video link.

The footage was met with an en­thusiastic thumbs up at CinemaCon, an annual gathering at which Hol­lywood studios showcase their upcoming titles for movie theater owners and managers from around the world. Ridley Scott’s sequel will hit theaters in November, nearly 25 years after the release of the origi­nal, Oscar best picture-winning his­torical epic “Gladiator.” 

All this week, promotional mar­ble statues for “Gladiator 2” have adorned the casino floors of Caesars Palace, the Ancient Rome-themed casino and hotel in Las Vegas where CinemaCon is held. As the previous film’s main characters, played by Rus­sell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix, were killed off, a new crop of actors step in.

Mescal portrays gladiator Lucius, the nephew of Phoenix’s villainous emperor, who was seen briefly as a child in the original film. Pedro Pascal plays a military general, while Denzel Washington’s mysterious character is seen in the extended footage plotting to topple the Roman Empire.

“Rome must fall. I need only to give it a push,” he says in one scene. The lavish presentation raised cheers even as both Paramount and the wider big-screen industry face un­certain times. The parent company of Paramount -- one of Hollywood’s oldest studios -- is currently locked in merger talks with Skydance, a me­dia company founded by the billion­aire Ellison family.

Meanwhile overall Hollywood box office receipts are expected to fall in 2024, largely due to last year’s ac­tors and writer strikes, which shut­tered and delayed film productions.

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