AICN, Alamo and Universal Head for 'Land of the Lost'

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Marty Krofft in Austin, from Alyssa Saucedo

Austin is a popular town for sneak peeks, but usually they are simple affairs where audiences get a chance to view a film and are asked their opinion on the way out the door. Sometimes the event is sponsored, and perhaps there's a plug at the beginning, and maybe some door prizes. Depending on the venue, it may be anarchy, with kids running around and people talking during the film after spending a couple of hours in line.

When we're lucky, filmmakers and perhaps cast and crew are there to do a Q&A. But if we're really lucky, the sneak is a celebratory event. These often involve the Alamo Drafthouse, Fantastic Fest and/or Ain't It Cool News. The Alamo lends itself to these special sneaks because the theater serves food and because it has a strong relationship with AICN. Both AICN and Alamo have good relationships with the studios, enough to host events like the unofficial world-premiere screening of Star Trek earlier this spring.

Last night was no different, when an Austin sneak preview of Land of the Lost included special guests, swag and more. Since it was less of a cattle-call than the usual sneak peek, everyone had to sign in. For their patience in line, they received a free hat and a rather unsettling backpack resembling the current incarnation of Chaka, the monkey-like companion. On the way into the theater, you could get your picture taken in a special Land of the Lost setting as a keepsake.

Once everyone found seats, a special appetizer sampler was served that included such delicacies as Grumpy Wings, Pterodactyl Eggs (jalapeno poppers), Prime-ate Ribs (baby back ribs) and Fried Sleestak w/Chaka Sauce (alligator with curry dipping sauce), courtesy of Universal Pictures. Everyone received two drink tickets good for a variety of beers or Chakatinis (a fruit-flavored martini).

Seating started two hours before the film itself rolled, which is unheard of at sneaks. This gave everyone plenty of time to drink and eat and socialize. At the Alamo, there are walkways for wait staff, which means people could easily find each other and talk. No feeling of sheep herding normally felt at screenings. No screaming kids (although a few youngsters were in the audience, at Alamo they know to behave). The Alamo pre-show included clips from the original Land of the Lost series while we mingled and settled in.

But wait, there was more! Harry Knowles, founder of AICN, introduced our three special guests. Director Brad Siberling, composer Michael Giacchino (Lost, Star Trek) and the legendary Marty Krofft himself spoke with Harry and took questions from the audience before the start of the film. Krofft, shown above with audience member Alyssa Saucedo, even talked briefly about other reboots to his earlier works, such as H.R. Pufnstuf and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. Just before the film started, a video of stars Danny McBride and Will Ferrell played, and after the screening, Marty Krofft signed posters and hats were available for anyone who asked (Krofft pictured above with Alamo regular Alyssa Saucedo).

This isn't the first time a Hollywood studio has been so generous in Austin. At the advance screening at Alamo of Hellboy II: The Golden Army last year, Universal Pictures not only arranged a poster signing with director Guillermo del Toro, actor Doug Jones, and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, but picked up everyone's tab. For the bait-and-switch Star Trek screening, everyone got a free soda and popcorn courtesy of Paramount Pictures, and a variety of swag on their way out ... not to mention enjoying the presence of Leonard Nimoy.

Some might argue this all amounts to bribery. A well-fed, tipsy audience with swag in hand and celebrities in their midst could be considered dazzled. There may be some truth to that. But more likely, it's simply a more receptive audience than one that's been standing in line for hours just to see a film without any extras.

Check out Chris Garcia's account of the evening on Austin Movie Blog for more details, including a photo of the scary Chaka backpack.