JESSICA HERNDON, AP Film Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Universal Pictures had a strong start at the box office this year, with “Lone Survivor” grossing more than $124 million and “Ride Along” bringing in nearly $146 million globally.
The run could continue for the studio that previewed its upcoming slate of films on Tuesday at the annual movie theater convention CinemaCon.
“A healthy slate is a diverse one,” said Donna Langley, chairman of Universal.
“Hits don’t come just in summer and Christmas,” added Nikki Rocco, president of distribution at Universal. “We should use the full calendar to create opportunities for films to find an audience and create a habit of movie-going that isn’t seasonal, but year-round.”
Here’s a look at three of the studio’s most promising films, from a racy love story to the return of a few beloved ensemble casts:
— “Fifty Shades of Grey,” directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. The first look at the trailer for the spicy romance based on E.L. James’ best-seller revealed a tale that appears far sweeter than it is steamy. The suave Christian Grey (Dornan) sweeps the ordinary-looking Anastasia Steele (Johnson) off her feet with a joyride in his helicopter, a visit to his swanky Seattle apartment, and a fancy make-over. Anastasia properly transforms from plain Jane to sexy sophisticate. “Why are you trying to change me?” she asks her new lover. “I’m not,” he replies. “It’s you who is changing me.” But it’s not all sentimental. The camera pans over Christian’s collection of S&M toys as Beyonce’s sleek and sexy “Haunted” plays in the background. The film is set for release on Valentine’s Day of 2015.
— “Fast & Furious 7,” directed James Wan and starring Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Tyrese Gibson. We may not have a hard and fast answer for how the studio will finish the film since Walker died before production concluded, but those scenes he was able to shoot definitely find their way into the seventh installment of the franchise. In the trailer, Walker, along with his crew of fierce drivers, stun viewers with a stunt involving driving cars out of a helicopter and safely landing with the help of parachutes. Flashy fight scenes and plenty of bare skin are once again on display. The seventh installment is scheduled to hit theaters on April 10, 2015.
— “Dumb and Dumber To,” directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly and starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. The anticipated sequel finds Harry (Daniels) visiting Lloyd (Carrey) in a home where he’s been faking helpless for 20 years as a gag. The pair then searches for the daughter Harry never knew he had. There’s a cringe-worthy bit with a catheter, an inappropriate instant with an old lady, we visit their same crappy apartment, the dog truck is back, and Kathleen Turner plays Harry’s baby mama. Queue a very satisfying phew! The comedy is scheduled for release Nov. 14.
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