Posted at 5:41 PM on March 16, 2006
by Euan Kerr
After attending a bunch of public sneak previews recently I have begun partaking of a guilty pleasure. These are the shows where local radio stations and publications offer freebies to listeners and readers. The hope is audience members will talk up the movie to their friends
There are many people who are regulars at these events, and they know they rhythm. Usually there is a brief introduction by the sponsors, and then the calls begin:
The radio station folks walk through the aisles hurling garments, carefully knotted to give them some heft, as far as they can into the crowd. The excitement just keeps mounting. The shirts bear some emblem or slogan from the film, probably not something you would spend your money on, but these are free!
Some in the crowd launch themselves into the air like NBA stars to catch their prize. The ripples of excitement roll back and forward through the gathering
There are usually various film critics and other writers sitting around in the crowd, trying to keep their heads low as the shirts fly. Ethical considerations mean they can't accept freebies, even if a shirt whacks them in the side of the head. Yet the competitive electricity in the air is hard to deny, and I wonder if the indifference displayed by the scribes is feigned.
I keep watching to see if, one day, one of them rises, Free Willy-like, to snag a tee. Just once, I'd like to see it!
Are public sneak previews better than media-only advance screenings?
Once, by luck, I got a pass to a press screening to a movie ("The End of Violence"). And once I attended a public sneak preview ("Cabin Fever"). Both movies were awful, but my experience at the public sneak preview was much worse--the theater was overcrowded with loud, obnoxious punk/Goth types. I walked out of the public sneak preview. Do media people and film critics prefer press screenings to public sneak previews?
Also, would Mr. Kerr really be crossing a line if he held onto a promotional T-shirt if it bonked him on the head? Isn't it common for Hollywood companies to send packages to media outlets? Don't these packages sometimes have nice gifts and freebies along with information about an upcoming movie?
When I worked for a college paper, my publication's entertainment editor sometimes received such packages. Sometimes--especially if the movie was a Disney film, I think--there package would have trinkets and fun freebies. So, what's the difference if media personnel get freebies at a public sneak preview or if the movie company sends it to 'em directly?
All good questions! I think if I got bonked on the head, I'd be tempted to hurl it back at my assailant!
The media only screenings are sparsely attended by the handful of journalists working the film beat. I can't speak for the other folks, but it's a very different experience seeing a particular movie in an empty theater as opposed to a full cinema. Many comedies tend to be much funnier with a crowd! It's good to get a sense sometimes of what other people think.
I have to admit I enjoy punk/goth audiences, which probably tells you more about me than I should admit.
We don't get many freebies from movie companies here, and we try to give them away so we aren't tainted. Frankly I think we aren't big enough fish here! We have an ethics policy which mandates what we can and can't accept. (OK, last night at the "Thank You for Smoking" preview I took a sticker, "Quitting is for quitters." I gave it to someone else though..... )