Ballsy End-Run Around Critics

20th Century Fox’s decision to do a nationwide commercial sneak of Cameron Crowe‘s We Bought a Zoo on 11.26 — four weeks before the Matt Damon-Scarlett Johansson-Thomas Haden Church family film opens nationwide on 12.23 — is brave and radical and unprecedented. In all sincerity, hats off.

Mat Damon, Scarlett Johansson in We Bought A Zoo.

This is being done, of course, in order to present the film directly to Joe and Jane Popcorn and in so doing bypass the big-city online smartass crowd, which, Fox apparently suspects, will probably piss on it. I for one admire Fox’s brass in doing this. They’re not hiding behind high stone walls or cowering in their boots, and are more or less following Disney’s War Horse approach — let Joe Hinterland see it concurrently with the critics and thereby remove the cynical filter of early online reviews.

“Once in a while, we’re lucky enough to have a picture to which audiences of all kinds and all ages respond so strongly, that it demands a big and unexpected event,” said Fox marketing honcho Oren Aviv. “We Bought a Zoo is that kind of picture — and Thanksgiving is a great time to share it via this special very early preview.”

Best HE Comment (from “dino velvet“): “This has the whiff of FUCK, we’re up against Sherlock 2, MI4, Dragon Tattoo, Tintin, Alvin and the Chipmunks 3 AND War Horse.”

  • berg

    Lester Bangs would say Metal Machine Music and The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady rock …

  • JR

    Any links to where the sneaks will show, and how to get tix?

  • K. Bowen

    We’ll survive.

  • LexG

    Hey, maybe it’s a MARLEY AND ME/ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS Fox lite holiday movie for kids and families, and has NO INTENTION WHATSOEVER of being “Oscar”?

    Just a thought. They need MORE ELLE in all the advertising.

    Remember when Johansson was the hottest piece ever, and not a hamming camp Yenta? Bring back the old GHOST WORLD/MAN WHO WASN’T THERE Johansson. Is she even 28? Why did she turn into Eva Longoria?

  • JR

    Jesus, the sneak is going out to 800+ theaters…this has the whiff of desperation, no?

  • dino velvet

    It has the whiff of FUCK we’re up against Sherlock 2, MI4, Dragon Tattoo, Tintin, Alvin and the Chipmunks 3 AND War Horse.

  • Scott Mendelson

    Yes, because nothing says “desperate” like showing the film to audiences nearly a full month before opening day and hoping they pass along good word of mouth. If anything, that makes me more confident about the film. Besides, considering I will have seen The Muppets and Hugo by Thanksgiving (and will take the daughter to Arthur Christmas if she’s interested), it will be nice to have something to sneak off to over the weekend (the artier films will have to wait as wife+2 kids = no driving to Hollywood for The Artist until Monday at the earliest).

  • Krillian

    It gives me more confidence too. When’s the last time an idea like this backfired?

  • hollywoodtease

    Did Damon beat out Greg Kinnear for this role? I just don’t get it.

  • Jason S.

    Greg Kinnear would never be given the lead in a 70 million dollar Fox movie. This looks more like a Steve Carell role though. I could see him in it.

  • Los Bostonian

    The Nicolas Winding Refn version of this film definitely has a tiger murdering one of the children before Damon beats it to death with a baseball bat.

  • Mgmax, le Corbeau

    Gosh, it’s almost as if he wants to have a hit so he can do those other projects he has in the drawer or something.

    Which is so uncharacteristic of the guy who made the austere Bressonian art film Jerry Maguire.

  • shanes5

    I remember seeing Almost Famous at a nation wide sneak a week before it opened. Seems like a good idea to create word of mouth momentum.