October 28, 2016
        Ten Contenders will compete for Best Documentary Short Subject                "The Circle" and "The Lost City of Z": Which potential 2016 contenders got bumped to 2017?                Natalie Portman, Janelle Monáe, Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, Stacy Keach at Hollywood Film Awards                Viola Davis will be campaigned in Best Supporting Actress for "Fences"                Mel Gibson to be Honored with the Hollywood Director Award at the 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Michael Moore drops a surprise new film with "Michael Moore in TrumpLand"                Hollywood Contenders: New Oscar Predictions for October                Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Naomie Harris, Lily Collins get Honors at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                "Manchester by the Sea" leads the Gotham Award nominations                Tom Ford, Marc Platt and Kenneth Lonergan to be Honored at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Tom Cruise is in his action hero comfort zone with "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"                "Moonlight" could be A24's big Oscar horse this year                Ewan McGregor steps behind the camera with "American Pastoral"                Hollywood Contenders: A second crack at Golden Globe predictions for 2016                "The Accountant" seeks to help give Ben Affleck another blockbuster        

“We Bought A Zoo” reactions hit the Web

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: In what has become an open season of anticipated sneak peeks, Cameron Crowe’s “We Bought a Zoo” took over multiplexes across American Saturday night to unveil his upcoming family comedy … nearly a month before its official Christmas Day release.

What spurred the movement? Was it confidence on Team Fox’s part to show a film they believed would generate strong word-of-mouth? Or was it an attempt to get ahead of what’s looking like an incredibly crowded Christmas frame, where audiences will have to choose between two Steven Spielberg films, David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” remake, Tom Cruise’s latest “Mission: Impossible,” and the doomsday thriller “The Darkest Hour.”

No matter the strategy, for the most part, the early sneak worked. Crowe’s new film is being judged against his last narrative feature, “Elizabethtown,” and from there, there’s no place to go but up. Curious patrons probably went in wondering if this was a step back toward the edgier filmmaking Crowe did with “Singles,” “Almost Famous” or “Vanilla Sky.” Yet this appears to be, as Drew McWeeny on HitFix puts it, “a big fat right down the middle mainstream family movie.”

And that’s one place Crowe hasn’t necessarily treaded too often. A critics’ darling (for the most part), Crowe isn’t a box-office force. Only “Sky” and the Oscar-winning “Jerry Maguire” have topped $100 million over the course of his career. After that, “Almost Famous” is his top earner with $32M.

“Zoo” could end up being his most commercial film, one with the potential to hit big during a movie-friendly, family-oriented holiday.

But critical opinion wasn’t the point of Saturday’s sneaks. Crowe reportedly wanted Joe and Jane Public to weigh in on the drama, then post their reactions to Tout, a social-media sharing format. The Twitter feed @WeBoughtAZoo stayed busy all evening retweeting audience reactions to the film. Tout slowly filled with video responses from savvy patrons. And Crowe, himself, solicited feedback on his Web site, TheUncool.com.

This appears to be a marketing win for 20th Century Fox, as feedback from the screenings was largely positive. We’ll see next month if the early preview can generate ticket sales for “Zoo,” as competition stiffens from heavy hitter at other studios.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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