Fox’s ‘Flicka’ making hay

Studio trying to broaden appeal of horse pic

A horse movie is a horse movie is a horse movie, of course.

Or is it?

As Fox 2000 unspools its pony pic “Flicka,” the studio seems acutely aware of this mantra and its implications — that films about horses and the girls who love them are generally limited in appeal to those very same girls. (Think, most recently, of “Dreamer,” which grossed $33 million even with girl du jour Dakota Fanning.)

So Fox is trying to have it both ways.

On the one hand the studio has tried to broaden the appeal of “Flicka” — based on the classic children’s book “My Friend Flicka” — by aging the film’s protagonist from 10 to 16. (Alison Lohman, who plays the lead, is actually 27.)

And the film’s trailer looks more like a moody, adult drama than a kidpic.

Fox’s marketing efforts, however, presume that a horse movie has its limits. So, in New York and L.A., publicity has been relatively low profile. But in more rural areas, Fox has been aggressively campaigning church and school groups. It’s also targeted the horse community: “Flicka” has been promoted at horse competitions and there’s a film tie-in with Breyer collectible horses.

The film has also been plugged by Heartland hottie Tim McGraw, who stars in the pic. At his concerts, McGraw has crooned the original song he wrote for the film, while a trailer has played on a screen behind him.

Judging by early, enthusiastic reviews of “Flicka,” Fox may have shortchanged itself by not taking a more blanket approach to pushing the pic.

But with its modest $15 million pricetag, saddling up with “Flicka” is hardly a risky move.

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