On Saturday February 29th – Leap Day – Disney is holding early nationwide pay preview screenings of the latest Pixar animated movie “Onward”. The fantasy adventure opens the following Thursday, March 5th, at 6pm.
This isn’t the first time the Mouse House has done early pay screenings with a Pixar picture. I remember seeing ads in my local newspaper for “Ratatouille” nationwide screenings on Saturday night June 16th, 2007 – TWO weekends before its regular opening day on the 29th. Disney knew they had a gem, and in the pre-social media age, they were simply after building-up positive word-of-mouth.
Even with its G-rating, “Ratatouille” isn’t one of the more kid-friendly Pixar entries, simply based on tone and subject matter. It’s adults who embraced this story of a talking rat, his human friend garbage boy turned chef – and a food critic with a life-changing restaurant experience.
In 2015, Disney teamed-up with Fathom Events for nationwide pay screenings of “Inside Out” the Tuesday before its regular release – June 16, 2015. (Exactly 8 years after the ones for “Ratatouille” – how about that?) The film screening also came with a brief behind the scenes tour of Pixar and a Q&A with Amy Poehler. And in 2018, Disney debuted “Incredibles 2” as a part of an IMAX pay double feature with the 2004 original film on the Wednesday of its release – June 13th.
And speaking of the first “Incredibles”… a free screening of that Pixar classic is basically how my career began. I attended a local advance screening of “The Incredibles” at a multiplex a few nights before it opened in November 2004. This was the first time I went to a “sneak preview” (the more common term back then). It didn’t matter that this was on a school night… I HAD to see “The Incredibles”!
In those days, you had to go to a radio station in order to get tangible, paper passes to a local preview screening. An ad in the newspaper would let you know how you could obtain them – or you’d have to be a lucky radio caller.
It’s shocking how things have changed. Now (unless you’re in a major market), it’s all done virtually through sites such as Gofobo and AdvanceScreenings .com and through a host of programs – from Regal Crown Club to AMC Stubs and other kinds of special, organized free screenings.
As I’ve written about before, the number of pay preview screenings has risen significantly over the past few years. Moviegoers in smaller markets that don’t get as many free screenings could now take advantage of these… as long as they have the cash. Studios figured out that people will pay to see a movie early.
Anyway, I went to this “Incredibles” screening… dressed as Dash Incredible. Halloween was just a few days earlier. The ads were all over TV and the build-up to “The Incredibles” was… incredible. Everyone at the screening was very surprised to see a 6-year-old dressed-up as a character from a movie they hadn’t even seen yet. But here I was!
I caught the attention of the special host of the screening, which was sponsored by the local Radio Disney affiliate. Chad Currin (a.k.a. Phil ‘N Good) was energetic and dynamic as he got the crowd of hundreds pumped for “The Incredibles” before the screening began – giving away prizes and asking trivia questions. He handed the microphone over to me a few times, and I impressed him with my knowledge and enthusiasm so much that he and the fellow DJs in attendance gave me some “Incredibles” swag: books, posters and other merchandise.
We took a photo, which serves as the beginning of my career. A little over a year later, in January 2006, I began doing audio reviews of family films for that Radio Disney station, 1460AM – in large part thanks to Currin and that night.
I’m now in my 15th year as a professional film critic, entertainment reporter, analyst… and occasional superhero. 😉 Anyway, it’s fun to look back, but it’s just as important to look ahead. For the past year or so, I’ve been at a point in my life where a lot of people have been asking me what I’ll be doing next.
Well, as they say in the biz: Stay Tuned!