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Serenity Screenings Sell Out 275

DizzyEllie writes "Last Wednesday, Universal offered fans of Joss Whedon's Serenity the unique opportunity to screen an unfinished version of the movie in ten cities. This was originally intended to pull both fans and non-fans into the fold, but the screenings sold out so quickly (less than a day for all cities to sell-out, but reportably just a few minutes in a couple of locations), it is clear that only the hard-core fanbase will make it in. This seemed to be completely unexpected by Universal, as ads were appearing in newspapers after the sell out, and incentives for the fans to promote the screenings were removed. The screenings will be held in 10 cities on May 5. Serenity: The Official Movie Website" Definitely a unique promo thing. Shows serious stones too- I mean, if the movie sucked, they wouldn't dare do something like this. Hopefully someone will post a review for us on wednesday. And the rest of us suckers have to wait until September. Bah.
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Serenity Screenings Sell Out

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  • Just who is this Joss Whedon by the way? I plead ignorance!!! and incidently ignorance is bliss! ;-)
    • by dtm789 ( 878689 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:38AM (#12397968)
      He is the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and apparently the show Firefly which has a huge fan base yet I never even heard of it until it was cancelled and they announced they were making a movie out of it.
      • It was cancelled almost immediately after airing the first episodes.
        • by jordand ( 196379 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:26AM (#12398286) Journal
          It was cancelled almost immediately after airing the first episodes.

          ...and yet The Simple Life is still running. Does that seem right to you?
          • Oh, very nice with the Jubal Early reference. (for those non-shiny people reading, Jubal Early is a particularly interesting empathic bounty hunter who appeared on firefly, and liked making observations that end in "Does that seem right to you?") IOW, mod this guy up funny even more.
      • by steve_bryan ( 2671 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:54AM (#12398487)
        Firefly was so badly mishandled by FOX that I'd like to add at least one more piece of information for those who are not familiar with it. When you hear mainly that it is from the creator of Buffy and Angel you might get the idea that you would only be interested if you enjoyed one of those. I've tried watching both of those series off and on but without success.

        I only bothered to do so because having seen Firefly in the intended order from the DVD's I'm sold on the idea that it is the best sci fi series ever made for TV. I can't say I have a similar opinion of Mr Whedon's other series but Firefly has such superior writing and characters that I can't imagine even trying to make a comparison to the other franchises that I enjoy but do not admire nearly as much.

        If you haven't seen the series or only saw a few confusingly presented episodes from the FOX debacle (boy I hope some of the morons responsible for that were fired) rent the episodes in order from your local video store or NetFlix. I'm not saying I can't imagine a better series but when compared to its peers, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Babylon 5, ... it comes out far ahead.
      • Funny that you didn't hear about it at the time. It was much anticipated here on Slashdot. I'm sure there were ads for it during Buffy, if you watched it.

        But if you weren't on Slashdot, it's easy to see how you could have missed it. It was put in a poor time slot, and moved around a lot, and it was cancelled mid-season.
  • Common practice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aneurysm9 ( 723000 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:43AM (#12398001)
    It's fairly common for studios to show workprints to test audiences during the editing phase to get a sense for what works and what doesn't. I'm not so sure what makes this any different.
    • Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't they usually carefully select their test audiences according to some expected demographic numbers or something? Since this was openly advertised, it smacks more of a promo/viral marketing campaign than a test screening. They'll probably make the people walking into the theater sign an NDA as a token CYA, but you know the first thing some lucky/evil /.er who went to see it is going to do is come on here and post as many spoilers as he can, getting the rest of us riled up
    • Re:Common practice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rijrunner ( 263757 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:17AM (#12398218)
      It is very unusual to show to a general purchasing audience. Usually test audiences are culled from standard test groups and are targetted demographics. They will be doing that also.

      I suspect that this is a new interesting marketting attempt. They get paid to show the movie in advance to a small group. That will raise interest in the film and awareness a bit. It is not even free marketting as the fanbase will pay for this. I seem to recall a couple other instances of this sort of thing, but they are rare.

      I seriously doubt they would do this if they did not think they had something though. A lot of the flamebait on here is blathering about the fanboy base and *nobody* flames a franchise more than an upset fanboy.

      A test audience signs non-disclosure agreements. They *want* people to talk about this. Not quite viral marketting, but they definately think that word-of-mouth will sell this. Since their dvd sales were pretty much all word-of-mouth and sold about 5 million set to date, there is a certain logic to that.

      • Well...

        Usually the test audiences are culled from random people at malls in the San Fernando Valley, usually by the sophisticated technique of "Hey, wanna see a free movie Tuesday night?"

        I think the targeted demo and so on is a myth. It's mostly a lot of industry wannabes (who, of course, live in the Valley) telling industry are-right-nows what's wrong with their movies.

        Keep that in mind, and a lot of decisions made based on test screenings make a lot more sense.
        • No. Those are not random. The people go out with a checklist. X number of a certain type of person to see a movie.

          The source of the people is somewhat random. But, not the composition of the people.

        • The composition of the groups is no more accurate that exit polling data (and you have only to look at the 2004 election to see how accurate that is).

          If you put some kid on the street with a clipboard, pay him 8 bucks an hour, and tell him to get x number of people, he'll get x number of people.

          Beyond that, they're gonna cut corners and take whatever "type" comes along.

          It's a nice system in theory, but it's not the way it works at ground level.
      • I've watched movies in LA, where the tickets were half-price or free (I don't remember too well) and at the end you had to fill out a short survey about the movie. They show the same movie with alternate endings or other plot twists and based on the audience feedback, decide what to go with. This is really not unusual - maybe they did a better job of publicising it and expanded it to more cities.

        Have you seen the movie ads where they say at the end "Now playing in New York and LA. Showing everywhere starti
    • Re:Common practice (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jordand ( 196379 )
      My understanding is that the test screenings have already occurred. The forthcoming screenings I would imagine are basically a bone that Universal is throwing to the fans, since the movie was supposed to be released already. (It was pushed back to September, apparently so it wouldn't be swamped by some other prominent sci-fi releases.)
  • Great trailer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fsck! ( 98098 ) <> on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:47AM (#12398028) Homepage
    I was skeptical that this would ever really happen. Having seen the trailer, I'm very glad I was wrong. It's been a while since I've rewatched the DVD so I don't remember some of the characters names, but these clips from the trailer were hilarious, and a kind of humor sadly absent from most movies:

    pilot: (flying into a battle) This is about to get interesting.
    captiain: Define "interesting."
    pilot: "Interesting: Oh God, oh God, we're all going to die?"

    bad guy: This destruction, this is your fault.
    pilot: No, *I* don't murder children.
    bad guy: [smiling] Oh, well I do.
    • Re:Great trailer (Score:3, Informative)

      Character Names:

      Captain: Mal(Malcom) (Former rebel. Wants to nail the space hooker)
      Pilot: Wash
      Engineer: Kaylee
      Space Hooker: Inara
      Stupid Muscle: Jayne
      Female Muscle: Zoe (Wash's Wife, served with Mal in the revolution)
      Doctor: Simon (River's Brother)
      Preacher: Book
      Psycho Chick: River
      • Re:Great trailer (Score:3, Informative)

        by NOLAChief ( 646613 )
        Let's clarify things a little more:

        Mal: Wants to nail Inara. Too much pride to admit it.

        Wash: Ecstatic he gets to nail Zoe.

        Kaylee: Wants to nail Simon. Annoyed he won't admit he wants her too.

        Inara: Wants to nail Mal. Too "professional" to admit it.

        Jayne: Wants to nail anything with boobs.

        Zoe: Nails Wash regularly. May have nailed Mal in the past. Backstory hazy.

        Simon: Wants to nail Kaylee. Too shy to admit it.

        Book: Doesn't appear interested in nailing anybody.

        River: Off in her own li

        • by jnik ( 1733 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @12:59PM (#12398912)
          Kaylee: Wants to nail Simon. Annoyed he won't admit he wants her too.

          More importantly:
          Every male Firefly fan: Wants to nail Kaylee. Thinks Simon is an idiot for not going for it.

          Jewel Staite broke my "never attracted to anyone younger than my little sister" rule. Apparently Joss had her put some meat on for Firefly; she looks great.

          • +1, True.

            I wasn't gonna say anything potentially incriminating 2 weeks before my wedding though.... :)

          • And Inara. Both of 'em are...something else, in very different ways. Joss does tend to know how to cast his shows (e.g. early seasons Willow).

            On another subject, anyone laying odds of Firefly returning to the small screen of the film does well?

            • anyone laying odds of Firefly returning to the small screen of the film does well?

              I'd say they're exactly the same as the odds that FOX will suddenly have totally new management.
        • Zoe: Nails Wash regularly.

          She's a hermaphrodite then? Or does she use a strapon?
      • Anyone know if Book is in the movie?
    • by NOLAChief ( 646613 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:27AM (#12398291)
      I was rather fond of:

      Bad Guy: I want to work this out like civilized men. I'm not threatening you. I'm unarmed.

      Mal: Good. *BLAM*

      • Re:Great trailer (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Gudlyf ( 544445 )
        Or, before George Lucas got hold of the movie:

        Bad Guy: I want to work this out like civilized men. I'm not...
        Mal: Good. *BLAM*
        Bad Guy: ...threaten...uh...

        • Actually, once Lucas got a hold of the movie, it would be:
          Bad Guy: I want to work this out like civilized men. I'm not [SHOOTS FIRST]
          Mal: Damn you Lucas!!
      • Obviously the villian isn't going to die like that, so there's only a couple possibilities as to what happens to him at that point:
        1. Captain only wounds him so he can extract more info while he writhes in pain.
        2. The Captain's ammo has been replaced with blanks.
        3. The evil dude had some kind of... Goa'uld shield technology to protect him.
        • Re:Great trailer (Score:3, Insightful)

          by NOLAChief ( 646613 )
          First time you watch "Serenity" (TV pilot), you expect Mal to have a tense confrontation with the Alliance agent holding River hostage.

          First time you watch "The Train Job", you expect Mal to wind up with Niska's tattooed goon as a continual nemesis.

          He kills them both in cold (OK, they were bad guys, lukewarm) blood. It is entirely possible that's how that bad guy dies, not that him dying will be the end of the story since I guarantee he isn't the only bad guy.

          That said, you're probably right, at le

          • Zoe: Preacher, don't the Bible have some pretty specific things to say about killing?
            Book: Quite specific. It is, however, somewhat fuzzy around the subject of kneecaps.
        • Re:Great trailer (Score:3, Informative)

          by AJWM ( 19027 )
          You left out the third possibility: the two (camera) shots were edited together like that just for the trailer, but in the movie there's more going on between those two shots.

          It's not uncommon to splice together stuff for a trailer that never happens that way in the movie (or TV episode).
    • All I got from the exchanges was:

      bad guy: Variations on "I'm gonna kick your ass"
      good guy: slick answer

      I'm hoping the good guy makes it look like he has to think about these one line perfectly structured responses every once in a while.
      • I guess there are Joss Whedon followers and then there's everyone else. There's a certain feel to the exchanges that makes these Good in some inexplicable way. These characters are a lot more complex than a movie trailer can really present. Ambiguity, innocence, growth, everything TV doesn't get a lot of. I've seen every episode plus the pilot twice so I can say with authority that there's more in Joss's vision of the future than slick one liners.

        If you appreciated Toy Story, Alien 4, Rosanne, or anything []
  • by GregoryKJohnson ( 717981 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:47AM (#12398032)
    IMDB has a plot summary and some biographic info:
  • This isn't news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pcgamez ( 40751 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:49AM (#12398043)
    Take any movie of any size and have screenings in 10 cities. It WILL sell out. With ~300M people and lets say 1000 seats, it is not hard to find a few people excited to see it.
    • Re:This isn't news (Score:5, Interesting)

      by johnpaul191 ( 240105 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @12:05PM (#12398575) Homepage
      i think the point was that it sold out before the ads were even out. it spread by word of mouth, or online. not shocking to us, but the fact that there were so many people that watched the show (or the DVDs) that still were keeping up to the minute with news.

      makes you wonder how the show failed so fast. was it because it was on friday nights, or because it was shown out of sequence (the pilot being shown last) or is the TV rating system flawed enough that they may miss a whole demographic of people that use VCRs/TiVo to catch shows.
      • makes you wonder how the show failed so fast. was it because...

        Yes, yes, and yes. Also it was preempted by sports fairly often.

        I think that a hefty majority of current fans are people who first watched the show on dvd. As evidenced even here, many people simply couldn't understand the show until they could see all of the episodes in the correct order. So subtract those potential viewers from the potential viewers who never even heard of the show before the dvds, and you get one canceled show.

        Though I
    • -1 Wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gerad ( 86818 )
      I hope you didn't mean that there are about ~300M people in 10 major cities combined, because that's the impression I got from reading your post. The USA* itself only has ~281M people, and Chicago (the largest city that the preview is being shown in) has only about ~3M in the city itself.

      Furthermore, I'd be curious to hear where you got your "1000 seats" number, as there is no actual article linking any solid information, other than the official website, which only lists the cities being shown.

      *And before
  • focus grouping (Score:4, Insightful)

    by astrashe ( 7452 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:53AM (#12398075) Journal
    Doesn't this suggest (I didn't say prove, just suggest) that they're making the movie by committee with focus group data?

    I don't know if that's a good thing or not. Most good movies are more organic -- they're the result of someone's vision, expressed with comparatively small amounts of interference.

    But then again, I'm already planning on not going to the last Star Wars movie [], so I'm out of step.

    • Re:focus grouping (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ewg ( 158266 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:00AM (#12398112)
      I hope they're not going to let the hardcore fans write the Serenity movie--I watched the Firefly show on DVD and did not end up liking at much as many of my friends did.

      For me, the Serenity movie is a chance for the Firefly team to show me something different.
      • Re:focus grouping (Score:2, Insightful)

        by thinkninja ( 606538 )
        As a fan of Firefly, it had better not be much of a departure from the core elements of the series.

        If you and the rest of the general public don't like it that much, tough shit.
      • I hope they're not going to let the hardcore fans write the Serenity movie--I watched the Firefly show on DVD and did not end up liking at much as many of my friends did.

        Too bad for you, glad your friends enjoyed it.

        For me, the Serenity movie is a chance for the Firefly team to show me something different.

        Why? You've got Everything else on the planet if you want something different, the idea of the Serenity movie is to be Firefly. If you don't enjoy Firefly then I'm sorry, this movie simply isn't fo
    • At some stage, the money invested becomes large enough that the execs become nervous. To ease the cramps in their wallets, as an antacid, they want things to blow up, go bang, crash, make loud noises and anything else that has sold well in the past.

      Story, plot, subject matter, appropriateness are all plowed under for a six seconds of basically orange tinted celluloid showing some geographic background and a big fractal/dynamic fluid flow pattern.

      If you want inventiveness and daring, challenging writing, l
    • Don't believe that stuff about someone's vision. I think directors work best when faced with difficult constraints and with constant reminders that they're making movies for other people, not just to please themselves. For example look at what has happened with Star Wars now that Lucas has total control. Or look at what happened when the Wachowskis earned enough trust from the studio to make the movie they really wanted to. (And look how good they were on a tiny budget like with Bound.) Whenever I hear a di
      • I don't know -- what about people like Herzog? Or even Spielberg? I know Hitchcock had some things pushed on him -- Kim Novak in Vertigo -- but he did most of his stuff the way he wanted to do it. So did Kubrick.

        I agree that many bad movies are made by auteur types. But most of the really good ones are too.

        A movie like the mask is pleasant enough to sit through, and if I were in the movie business, I would have loved to have been associated with it, because it made money. But for me, a guy in the aud
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2005 @10:55AM (#12398087)
  • Pent Up Demand (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <> on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:02AM (#12398127) Homepage Journal
    I rarely re-watch episodes of even my most favorite shows, but Battlestar Galactica is showing on the HDTV Universal Channel and it is glorious in HiDef. Hopefully Universal will re-air the Firefly series. I suspect that if more of the content on the HD channels were Sci-Fi and Fantasy there would be faster buy-in for HD. When you look at DVDs it's always the Sci-Fi and Fantasy stuff that are Mega sellers.

    The networks really seem to have a love hate relationship with Sci-Fi Fantasy fans. They are not content to cater to a smaller demographic. While that same demographic will none the less be loyal and unwavering for a good show, and support said show with DVD purchases and Fan sites, proving while maybe a 1/2 to 1/3 the normal demographic for other fair, the long term property value is much Higher. Sci-Fi fans should let advertisers know that they are major consumers and will well reward brands that support our hunger for good alternate fair on TV.

    I will probably hear some boos on this, but I find it ironic that Enterprise has been exceptional the last few episodes. I liked it in general, though it could have been better. I was not obsessive about its departure, but now they've decided to go out with a bang and have plots that are not retellings of TOS I am vexed. It would seem we will never get a third Evil-Universe story, it seemed like a cliffhanger. Granted the Evil-Universe thing was used kind of gimmicky in the DS9 series, but Enterprise has it right by leaving the main universe out. Probably just get tired of seeing all the PC hand ringing our characters do, and enjoying seeing people give into some raw animal emotions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:04AM (#12398139)
    ha, I figured out why they wanted this posted:

    See the u=dizzyellie in the article link?
    That's to get them credits when you sign up for the site to browse! SNEAKY! (wish I thought of it)

    (credits let them get free t-shirts and posters and such)
  • That depends. After the screenings, a screener on p2p seems inevitable. (Now there's a conflict of /. ethics!)
  • Wasn't the Serenity trailer supposed to play before Hitchhiker's Guide? I know of several people who went to see HHGG but the Serenity trailer wasn't shown. What happened?

  • Reviews (Score:3, Informative)

    by affeking ( 315129 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:13AM (#12398202)
    Actually, there are already a few reviews out there from an Australian screening. Here's one... []

    Its by a big Whedon fan, so probably a little biast.
  • by LuxFX ( 220822 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:19AM (#12398235) Homepage Journal
    There's already been a couple of reviews to hit the net. Here is one of them [] based on a screening in Australia.
  • Apple has an H.264 version of the trailer at []
    • I just got a new 17" iMac G5 with Tiger two days ago. I just loved watching this trailer in a big window instead of a little dinky plug-in on a web page.

      Of course, watching it on the gorgeous flat screen helped. :-)
  • I got my tickets!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:30AM (#12398324)
    With an announcement by Joss Whedon at the Serenity official web site [], the tickets to this event went on sale at just after midnight Wednesday morning. By dawn, most of the cities were sold out. By 9 a.m., all of the cities were sold out.

    I happened to trip over the announcement at 1 a.m, woke the wife, and scored our tickets. We're very excited about it!!!

    What's it about? One good quote that I read was, "Imagine if Star Wars had been about Han instead of Luke." (but with much, much better writing and no damned cutsie aliens).

    There have been several test screenings in the past to tune the movie. Almost always, the word leaked and these turned into flash mob events for Firefly/Whedon fans. This 10 city screening is a little different. The movie is nearly the finished product, but the purpose is to incite the fan base into a word-of-mouth guerilla marketing machine.

    Universal apparently thought that there was going to be trouble getting butts into seats, and created a marketing campaign and ads just for this screening. With 30,000+ registered fans at the official Serenity website [], they need not have worried about that. A couple of folks have even put their tickets on eBay with bidding now at absurd levels.

    This promises to be big! Check out the trailer []!
    • It's all about Han (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Syncdata ( 596941 )
      What's it about? One good quote that I read was, "Imagine if Star Wars had been about Han instead of Luke." (but with much, much better writing and no damned cutsie aliens).

      Surprisingly, I didn't catch this while firefly was on the air, nor after I watched the DVDs. I was describing the show to a friend of mine, and he says "So it's basically the adventures of Han Solo?" It's really the best synopsis I've heard, and he hadn't watched the show.

      I wonder if that's what Whedon had in mind the whole time?
  • The Serenity HD Trailer [] using H.264 is quite impressive.
  • by spideyct ( 250045 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @11:55AM (#12398492)
    Reminds me of this past post:
    MS: Beta Software Good Enough for Production Use []

    (Only, this time they're charging.)

    The people that are interested don't care that it is still beta. The people that do not want to consume an unfinished product will stay away.
    • It's more or less finished. The reason it opens in September and not now is that someone at Universal has some brains and noticed that putting Serenity in the Slot between Hitchhikers' Guide and Episode III is awfully like what Fox did with the "Friday 8PM when not preempted for Baseball"-Slot.
  • by Gossi ( 731861 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @12:07PM (#12398583)
    Especially for CmdrTaco:
    80mb ultra high res XVID trailer []

    It's 80mb. Well above DVD quality.

    Needs Xvid. In linux, use mplayer -framedrop (you may also need "-vo x11" in linux if your graphics card doesn't handle very mad resolutions).

    Also, whilst I've got your attention: I've seen the movie in London last month with the UK distributors (UIP), and it was freakin' brilliant.

    • I'll see your 80 meg and raise you 60. On the Apple QuickTime site you can download an H.264 encoded trailer. It should look great on your 60" LCD assuming you have a dual G5 Mac driving it. They claim QuickTime 7 for Windows will be available soon but for now you would need a (high end) Mac. The HD gallery is here []
  • Shit. I should have paid more attention. Normally cool shit like this never comes to vegas. Its all LA, NYC, Chicago, ATL, somewhere in texas, SF, etc.

  • If the movie sucked, they would just not put it on as many screens.

  • Seemed a fairly run-of-the-mill bunch of hackneyed SF cliches from the trailer. I've not seen the TV series, nor heard of it before last week, was it any good?


A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson