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War Horse Takes Preview Screening Route to Build Buzz

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 2, 2011 at 9:27AM

Disney/DreamWorks is borrowing a page from Paramount's Young Adult pop-up screening playbook by previewing Steven Spielberg's drama War Horse around the country via sneaks, starting Tuesday November 1 (see cities and dates below). (Long-lead press and key critics groups will also see the film ahead of most media, who won't screen it until the end of November.) Positive heartland reactions are already coming in.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Disney/DreamWorks is borrowing a page from Paramount's Young Adult pop-up screening playbook by previewing Steven Spielberg's drama War Horse around the country via sneaks, starting Tuesday November 1 (see cities and dates below). (Long-lead press and key critics groups will also see the film ahead of most media, who won't screen it until the end of November.) Positive heartland reactions are already coming in.

Why do studios mount regional previews rather than taking the film fest route? Well, this strategy usually indicates that they believe that they have a playable mainstream crowd-pleaser that needs to build awareness via word-of-mouth, but may not play with high brow critics in the context of a film festival. This spells danger for those who have been proclaiming War Horse an awards frontrunner sight unseen.

More details and the trailer are below.

I blubbered like everyone else at the stage play, and Spielberg certainly knows how to reach those emotions about a young lad's love for his horse, and how other people abuse and care for the animal during the First World War. But that doesn't mean that Spielberg has pulled off another Schindler's List. My instinct is that the Academy is rooting for Spielberg this year, and will happily reward the man who inspired Super 8 and also directed The Adventures of Tintin. He has achieved the stature of an eminence grise at this point, while still at the top of his game.

But if the movie fails to reach critics, that could spell doom. Others are smelling trouble in the trailer below, which features a swelling John Williams score. Here's the official YouTube channel.

Tue Nov 1, 2011 in Bellevue, WA
Tue Nov 1, 2011 in Leawood, KS
Tue Nov 1, 2011 in Cleveland Heights, OH
Wed Nov 2, 2011 in Beaverton, OR
Wed Nov 2, 2011 in Bethesda, MD
Wed Nov 2, 2011 in Plymouth Meeting, PA
Thu Nov 10, 2011 in Olathe, KS

[Hat Tip: Awards Daily.]

This article is related to: Awards, Awards, Directors, Genres, Studios, Marketing, Oscars, Steven Spielberg, Period, Drama, Disney


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.