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Paramount Pictures Wilts Under Spotlight At Cinemacon

At the annual industry conference known as CinemaCon, movie studios try to wow theater owners with A-list movie stars, chats with famous directors and sizzling trailers for big-budget film projects.

But Paramount Pictures' presentation underwhelmed. Monday night's event at Caesars Palace included an awkward exchange between Megan Fox and Will Arnett, stars of the sequel to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Audience members griped that the studio did not screen footage from its upcoming movie "Star Trek Beyond." And acclaimed director J.J. Abrams ruffled feathers when he suggested to a crowd of cinema owners that they needed to adapt to changing consumer habits.

The tepid response was the latest misstep for the historic Melrose Avenue movie studio, which is struggling to reverse a prolonged slump at the box office. Paramount had two high-profile disappointments in the last quarter, "Zoolander 2" and "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot," that analysts say could result in a $100-million write-down.

Paramount also faces an uncertain future. Viacom Inc. Chief Executive Philippe Dauman in February said the company would consider selling a minority stake in Paramount. Viacom needs money to pay down debt, and Dauman is hoping to appease restive investors after Viacom shares plummeted more than 50% in the last two years. Fetching a big sum for a piece of Paramount could boost the overall value of Viacom.

Analysts have estimated that Paramount is worth at least $5 billion, or as much as $10 billion. They noted that China's Dalian Wanda Group paid $3.5 billion to purchase a much smaller Hollywood production company, Legendary Entertainment.

The Paramount stake sale marks the first time in more than a decade that a major Hollywood studio has gone on the market. The auction has drawn interest from more than three dozen entities, according to Viacom.