The lead time between the sneaks and the movie's official debut date is unprecedented, according to Fox, and reflects the studio's confidence in the PG-rated film. The movie will play on Nov. 26 in more than 800 theaters nationwide, although that number could grow. Sneaks are used by studios to build word-of-mouth and, in some cases, trigger reviews.
"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. We Bought a Zoo is that kind of picture -- and Thanksgiving is a great time to share it via this special very early preview," Fox president and chief marketing officer Oren Aviv said.
Fox decided to hold the sneaks based on the results of test screenings in big cities and America's heartland.
The studio is partnering with TOUT on a "TOUT Takeover," which will allow those attending the sneaks to post their own reviews of the film (one entrant will win a trip for four to the San Diego Zoo). The social media campaign also will include a live chat with Crowe following the film, and tie-ins with Twitter and Facebook .
"I think I'm the one getting the early holiday gift," Crowe said. "Holding previews so far ahead of our opening is a bold movie -- but that's one of the many reasons I like it."
We Bought a Zoo, also starring Elle Fanning and Thomas Haden Church, tells the story of a single dad who wants to give his family a new start and moves to a home that's smack in the middle of a down-and-out zoo. Together, he and his two children try to restore the zoo to its former glory.
Crowe co-wrote the script with Aline Brosh McKenna, with Julie Yorn and Rick Yorn producing.