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Avatar Day

by Anne Thompson
August 22, 2009 6:40 AM
5 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

James Cameron himself wasn't happy that the Avatar online trailer preceded the Avatar Day IMAX 3-D screenings on Friday. The reason that happened, according to Fox, is that the trailer went out at the same time as the first 10 AM screenings in New Zealand Tokyo on the other side of the world. It was a synchronous global release. The Apple site was so overwhelmed with clicks that it crashed at first. More than 4 million people streamed the Avatar trailer on that first day, breaking the prior record of 1.7 million set by Star Trek. So that was good news for Fox. Curiosity was high.

And many people went to see the 16 minutes of footage assembled by Cameron for Avatar Day---designed to show exactly what the immersive huge-screen 3-D experience would be like. Now, most of my friends--clearly not the target audience--didn't bother to check it out. And the theater I went to, The Bridge (which has a proper IMAX screen) was not packed. (There was another later show.) Some people weren't able to get in to their local cinemas, though. (UPDATE: Fox asserts that "reservations for all showings were completely booked." And Variety reports that Cameron slipped into the Bridge cinema Friday night.)

The people around me---presumably eager fans of Cameron movies--whooped and cheered and loved the material, which was introduced by the writer-director himself and offered a different male-skewed slice of what I'd seen at Comic-Con. Cameron is selling the concept of this guy, Jake Sully (Aussie actor Sam Worthington), going on a fantastic mission to another planet, Pandora, where he becomes one of the natives, in effect, and falls in love. It's Last of the Mohicans meets Dances with Wolves in the future, on sci-fi steroids. Guys will love this. And there's romance for the girls, too. Worthington and Zoe Saldana's facial expressions come through loud and clear with this latest most sophisticated Weta Digital iteration of performance capture.

People are getting hung up on whether or not this is animation. What does it matter, if you are pulled into the story? Spielberg and Peter Jackson's upcoming Tintin is using the same exact process--without mixing in a live action story as well. Rival studio execs including Paramount's Rob Moore and Adam Goodman and Marvel's Kevin Feige showed up at the screening too, to check out the process.

One moviegoer who loved the footage admitted that he almost didn't come because the online trailer disappointed him. That trailer is a tiny fraction of what the movie experience is like. And those of us at Avatar Day just got a taste. I'm not worried about Avatar pulling audiences (it's real final cost will determine its ultimate success), because if the relatively primitive Polar Express succeeded--on the merits of being utterly new and different-- on December 18 Avatar will deliver far more. Curiosity is key. Will you check it out when the time comes?

5 Comments

  • Mark | August 24, 2009 9:58 AMReply

    Tintin is spelt "Tintin"... Not TinTin or Tin Tin or Tin-Tin. I think you have him confused with a certain American dog.

  • Minoru | August 24, 2009 7:38 AMReply

    Hi,
    I saw Avatar preview at 10am in Tokyo. A guy from Fox told we were the first viewer in the world. It was only 20% full on 500 seats theater. Some movie business people seemed there. The teaser made me worried that dinosaur and Dragon wasn't CG challenging theme any more. We are familiar with those visuals. This movie won't pay...

  • Mel | August 24, 2009 4:32 AMReply

    The teaser was out a good day before I went to the screening here in Australia. I purposely didn't watch it, and I'm glad, because compared to the 3D screening, the teaser was underwhelming. But those of us who did go to the preview will no doubt be telling everyone we know how amazing it was, and come December I'll be lining up for the movie and dragging friends along with me.

    @kpk - My screening was about 75% full. I had two tickets but couldn't get anyone to come with me because they weren't able to get off work early to get to the screening in time. I think that stopped a lot of people.

  • kpk | August 22, 2009 11:14 AMReply

    Well, sorry to disappoint you Thompson, but it doesn't seem like many peoples come to the Avatar Day event:

    http://chud.com/articles/articles/20553/1/IS-THE-AVATAR-FOOTAGE-PLAYING-TO-HALF-EMPTY-THEATERS/Page1.html

  • chad bennett | August 22, 2009 11:05 AMReply

    This article is incorrect. The following statement is a mistake sorry. So I guess that Fox gave out bogus info. Why?

    "The reason that happened, according to Fox, is that the trailer went out at the same time as the first 10 AM screenings in New Zealand on the other side of the world. It was a synchronous global release."

    I live in New Zealand and was at the 1st screening which was at 4pm yesterday which would have made it 9pm Friday evening in Los Angeles.

    Just keeping you honest.

    Thanks

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