As the wraps come off 'Super 8,' will fans come?
Ever since its trailer made its Super Bowl debut, J.J. Abrams' "Super 8" has kept a low marketing profile. Contrary to most summer releases, the Steven Spielberg-produced coming-of-age horror film has opted for mystery over ubiquity as its preferred promotional tool.
As the movie's release looms this weekend, that's starting to change; Paramount, for instance, has just announced a sneak preview Thursday on about 250 screens in conjunction with Twitter. But will audiences respond to the unconventional campaign?
The 1979-set film, which centers on a likable group of preternaturally mature middle-schoolers who witness an unusual train accident and then must cope with what they've seen -- is Abrams' homage to "E.T.," "The Goonies" and other genre-tinged youthful dramedies from the 1980s. While many of us view those films as timeless hits, it's far from clear how a teenager raised on today's less sentimental, more effects-driven summer movies will feel.
So far the research suggests that younger audiences haven't quite sparked to the movie. As my colleague John Horn writes in his Word of Mouth column in tomorrow's Times, the under-25 set has been less responsive in pre-release surveys. "[P]eople who remember 1979 are more likely to want to see 'Super 8' than those for whom it’s ancient history," Horn writes. As are, one might add, filmgoers over 30 who fondly remember movies from three decades ago and will likely relish the chance to see one again in a movie theater.
Paramount is positioning the movie as a multigenerational offering. That may well turn out to be true. But while most family hits these days are movies the kids primarily want to see that parents can enjoy too -- this spring's "Rio," for instance -- "Super 8" has to do it the other way: First get parents excited, and then have them convince their kids to take the walk down memory lane with them. But then, this movie's been doing things a little differently for a while now.
Photo: A scene from "Super 8." Credit: Paramount Pictures