The first studio presentation of CinemaCon 2012 featured a surprise appearance by Sacha Baron Cohen in support of the May 16 release of his new comedy The Dictator.

Flanked by female bodyguards, the British comic marched on to the stage at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace in character as General Aladeen, supreme ruler of the fictitious state of Wadiya.

“I thought I would be the only dictator here tonight,” he quipped. “So imagine my surprise when I heard Jeffrey Katzenberg would be here.”

The head of DreamWorks Animation, who earlier in the evening previewed excerpts from upcoming summer release and out-of-competition Cannes entry Madagascar 3 and November release Rise Of The Guardians, made a show of prostrating himself before Baron Cohen as the comedian left the venue.

Baron Cohen was on hand in full regalia later in the evening to introduce a preview of The Dictator at the Rave multiplex.

Tom Cruise sent a recorded message to CinemaCon attendees from Baton Rouge in Louisiana, where he is shooting the action thriller One Shot, the first in what Paramount hopes will become a franchise based on the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child. It is scheduled to open in the US on Dec 21.

The Rock took to the stage to talk up summer release G.I. Joe: Retaliation and received the CinemaCon Action Star Of The Decade award. Adding to the star wattage of the evening, Chris Pine, a member of the Paramount family through the Star Trek reboot, spoke about his role as Jack Frost in Rise Of The Guardians.

Paramount vice-chairman Rob Moore presided over the session and ended by inviting National Amusements president Shari Redstone (whose father Sumner chairs Paramount parent Viacom) to pay tribute to outgoing president of domestic theatrical distribution Jim Tharp. The executive collected the CinemaCon Triumph Award after a lengthy tribute reel featuring Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams and Michael Bay, among others.