Cameron Crowe’s ‘Zoo’ gets early sneaks

Fox mounts social networking campaign to build buzz

Faced with at least four other high-profile releases over the Christmas weekend, 20th Century Fox is getting a jump on the other studios by sneaking Cameron Crowe’s “We Bought a Zoo” on Nov. 26, nearly one month ahead of its Dec. 23 Stateside launch.

Fox said positive buzz from test screenings prompted the nationwide early screenings, aimed at building word of mouth. PG-rated dramedy “We Bought a Zoo,” based on the Benjamin Mee memoir and starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, is perhaps less familiar to auds than some of the other titles opening over the same period.

Indeed, the Dec. 23 weekend is packed with high-profile releases, including two Steven Spielberg pics: “The Adventures of Tintin” and “War Horse,” as well as David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.”

“Once in a while, we’re lucky enough to have a picture to which audiences of all kinds and all ages respond so strongly that it demands a big and unexpected event,” said Fox marketing chief Oren Aviv. “‘We Bought a Zoo’ is that kind of picture — and Thanksgiving is a great time to share it via this special, very early preview.”

Paramount followed a similar plan when it offered free advanced screenings of “Footloose” two weeks before its Oct. 14 release — but a sneak a month ahead of a film’s opening is unusual.

As part of the strategy, Fox is partnering with social-networking service Tout, allowing auds to post personal reviews of the film, as well as share their own “20 Seconds of Courage” — a tie-in with one of the film’s key themes.

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