'Dream' team wheels out roadshow

Reaching into Hollywood’s past for an old-fashioned marketing approach, DreamWorks and Paramount will throw a roadshow for “Dreamgirls” in Los Angeles, Gotham and San Francisco, charging $25 per reserved seat.

Roadshow kicks off Dec. 15 at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, New York’s Zeigfeld Theater and the Metreon in San Francisco. Exclusive engagement will run 10 days, with one show per night and matinees added on the weekends.

“Dreamgirls,” based on the Broadway musical and directed by Bill Condon, opens wide Christmas Day.

Almost as old as the movie biz itself, roadshows were used as a way to build buzz before a movie went wide. It wasn’t uncommon for movies to play in a roadshow for six to eight months, or, as with “The Sound of Music,” even longer.

Held in a few select cities, roadshows were designed to make moviegoing an event and more like a live theater experience, complete with intermission. Part of the mystique: higher-priced tickets and reserved seating.

DreamWorks and Paramount are mounting an aggressive awards campaign for “Dreamgirls” and had always planned on a Dec. 15 limited run. Now, they’re taking it a step further.

“Everything old is new again at some point,” said DreamWorks marketing honcho Terry Press.

Par and DreamWorks will spice up the “Dreamgirls” roadshow with lobby exhibits on the making of the film and the opportunity to buy exclusive merchandise and the soundtrack. Those shelling out their $25 also will get a limited-edition program. (The roadshow for Disney’s “Fantasia” also included a program.) There will be no commercials or trailers before “Dreamgirls” rolls and no intermission.

“We wanted to bring it to audiences in a special way, and we think this roadshow does the film justice,” said Paramount prexy of distribution Jim Tharp.

The big epics of the 1950s and 1960s, including “The Ten Commandments” and “Lawrence of Arabia,” bowed in roadshows as studios found themselves competing with television for eyeballs. The last film to have an official roadshow was the 1972 musical “Man of La Mancha.”

After that, roadshows began morphing into today’s limited runs, with normal ticket prices and no reserved seating. Some longer films continued to be shown in the roadshow format, i.e., with an intermission, the last being “Gandhi” in 1982.

The Gotham premiere for “Dreamgirls” is Dec. 4; the L.A. preem is skedded for Dec. 11.

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