'Star Wars' Trailer to Swell Movie Lines This Weekend

In 1998, Fans Bought 'Meet Joe Black' Tickets Just to See 'Phantom Menace' Trailer

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The longest lines outside theaters this Thanksgiving weekend may be for the new "Star Wars" trailer that exhibitors will show in some locations.

Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark and Carmike Cinemas will run a trailer for Walt Disney's new "Stars Wars: The Force Awakens" over the long weekend. Director J.J. Abrams today confirmed the Nov. 28 release plans on Twitter.

The anticipation around the trailer for the seventh episode of the "Star Wars" franchise is the latest drip feeding of information about the picture, and it's timed to exploit the Thursday-to-Sunday Thanksgiving break, a big weekend for films. In 1998, some fans bought tickets to a Brad Pitt feature, "Meet Joe Black," only to see a trailer for "The Phantom Menace."

"Trailers have always had this kind of hold on the fans," said Robert Marich, who recounts the Pitt episode in his book "Marketing to Moviegoers." "The fans, the geeks, the aficionados, they are trend setters, they're plugged in online. They show up for trailers."

Until Burbank, California-based Disney and the exhibitors say more, "Star Wars" fans will have to guess which current films the trailer will be running with. Disney's latest feature, "Big Hero 6," is still in theaters.

Regal, the largest exhibitor, announced on its website today it would play the trailer in nine locations starting Nov. 28, according to trade reports, and then pulled the notice down.

Major chains
Regal, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, didn't respond to e-mail requests for comment.

"If you don't see us tweeting for a while, a certain Wookiee pull some certain arms out of their sockets," the company said on its Twitter feed.

Other big chains such Cinemark, Carmike and AMC, the second largest exhibitor, said they'll be showing the clip.

The efforts to build excitement around the new release with teasers tap into the growing importance of previews to a fanboy audience. A trailer for "Age of Ultron," the new Disney/Marvel Avengers film, was recently leaked and has been seen almost 60 million times on YouTube.

'Jurassic' trailer
Universal Pictures, part of Comcast Corp., released an online teaser for the new "Jurassic World" on Nov. 23 and planned to unveil a longer online trailer on Thanksgiving Day, according to an official Twitter feed for the film.

In an age of social media, trailers are often released online. The decision to unveil the "Star Wars" clip in theaters highlights the importance Disney places on the film.

The studio ranks second this year in domestic box-office receipts behind 21st Century Fox, with $1.46 billion in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Its biggest domestic films this year have been "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," both from Marvel.

Thanksgiving ranks as one of the biggest weekends for movie going. In 2013, receipts from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 totaled $208.1 million, led by "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" in its second week in theaters, according to Rentrak Corp.

Two new films open in wide release on Nov. 26: DreamWorks Animation SKG's "Penguins of Madagascar," distributed by Fox, and "Horrible Bosses 2," from Time Warner's Warner Bros.

"The Hunger Games: ''Mockingjay -- Part 1,'' which had the biggest opening of the year last weekend, will also be vying for film fans in its second weekend of release.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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