November 16, 2011

THE BIJOU: “We Bought” A Preview

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Fox is adopted a very interesting strategy on its upcoming Cameron Crowe/Matt Damon/Scarlett Johansson drama WE BOUGHT A ZOO.  The movie doesn’t open until December 23, but the studio will hold national “sneak” previews on November 26, in the teeth of Thanksgiving weekend.  (Reportedly screenings will also include a Q&A with Crowe and as many social networking gimmicks as Fox can come up with.)
The film is a family story that will probably be gunning for the Marley & Me crowd, telling a fictionalized version of a true tale about a family that purchased and had to operate a private zoo.  (The real story took place in England.)  Damon plays the recently widowed hero (with Thomas Haden Church as his cynical brother) and Johansson is the head of the zoo employees.  The buzz after advance showings of Zoo is that it’s a genuine crowd-pleaser, but not likely to get enormous critical attention or awards consideration, especially in comparison to Crowe’s other films–unless it breaks out a la The Blind Side.  Since, unlike Marley, the book that was its inspiration wasn’t a bestseller, and since Damon and Johansson are “names” but not guarantees of huge openings, trying to develop a groundswell of audience interest feels like a good idea. 

The daring part of the move is the chosen weekend.  Zoo will be going head-to-head that night with The Muppets, Hugo, Arthur Christmas and Happy Feet 2, rather than waiting for the traditionally slow weekends that follow.  It suggests confidence on the part of the studio, as well as a possibly justified belief that unlike those pure kids’ movies, Zoo can find a wider for-all-ages audience.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."