In an unprecedented move, 20th Century Fox will be holding a massive “sneak preview” event for Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo a full four weeks before the film opens for the Christmas holiday. The film, scheduled to go wide on December 23, will now take over a different holiday, playing in more than 800 theaters around the country on the Saturday of this year’s Thanksgiving weekend, November 26.

The studio is reportedly holding the sneak previews based on positive test screenings, in hopes that the massive launch will spawn both good word-of-mouth from regular filmgoers and a spat of fresh reviews from critics who shell out their own cash to jump the review gun. Fox is also partnering with TOUT (some sort of social media hub that I’ve never heard of that relies on “video status updates”) to allow viewers to post reviews of the film (presumably via quick video snippet). Fox is also reportedly crafting a larger social media campaign that includes tie-ins with Twitter and Facebook.

Based on Benjamin Mee’s memoir, the film follows a single dad (Matt Damon) who hopes to reinvigorate his family life with a new home – one that’s in the middle of a ramshackle zoo whose rebuilding the family takes on. The film also stars Scarlett JohanssonThomas Haden ChurchElle Fanning, and Patrick Fugit. The last two trailers for the film have won the hearts of both myself and our own Cole Abaius, so here’s hoping that the film delivers on its promise.

The Thanksgiving holiday is already crammed with family-friendly fare, including Arthur Christmas, Hugo, and The Muppets in wide release (with more adult offerings like The Artist, A Dangerous Method, and My Week with Marilyn rounding out the limited releases). It’s a bit puzzling that Fox wouldn’t wait a week and hold the sneaks over until the next weekend, when nothing is opening in wide release, but perhaps this placement just speaks to how much the studio expects the film to appeal to families, regardless of when it comes out.

Sneak previews have become increasingly en vogue lately, with Paramount putting out a small Footloose sneak in advance of that film’s opening earlier this season, and The Weinstein Company going the same route with I Don’t Know How She Does It before that. [THR, via The Playlist]

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