“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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