Previews of upcoming episodes of TheSopranos appear
to be the hottest ticket in town, and not just among trade insiders.
Over the past two months, Home Box Office has hosted about
two-dozen public screenings of the season's hottest television drama, with guest
lists varying market to market.
At a Mall of America event in Minneapolis earlier this
month, TheSopranos sneak preview was open to the public, HBO north-central
regional corporate-affairs manager Cheryl Procter said.
"It's a very hot show," she noted.
"This was an opportunity for us to encourage tune-in and to take advantage of the
momentum" that TheSopranos is enjoying from its Golden Globe Awards.
Sopranos newcomer David Proval, who plays Richie
Aprille, attended the Minneapolis screening, as well as others hosted by the
network's north-central region. Local radio listeners had a chance to win dinner with
Proval the night of the screening. Cable affiliates also used the dinner with Proval as a
reward for top-selling agents of HBO, Procter said.
Tony Soprano wanna-bes attended the event dressed in style
for the chance to win $250 in a look-alike contest held at the America Live bar in the
Mall of America, which hosted the screening.
Procter put to rest any thought that TheSopranos'
appealmight be regional. "In the good old Midwest, this show is hot,"
A recent screening in Miami Beach, Fla., attracted 410
people, including the mayor, cable affiliates and local celebrities. Each of the five Sopranos
cast members who came to the event received a key to the city, as well as heavy applause
each time the actor appeared on screen.
This isn't to say that the show doesn't resonate
particularly strongly with HBO fans in New Jersey.
Last month, HBO hosted a preview of the season premiere at
a large Italian restaurant in West Orange called The Pleasantdale Chateau. The event
hosted more than 400 VIPs, including mayors and police officials from local towns that
were used for the show.
According to manager of corporate affairs and affiliate
public relations Suzanne Pinto, HBO also invited people who live in the North Caldwell,
N.J., homes that serve as the location for the series.
The guests were excited to attend the screening of The
Sopranos, which some told Pinto "was the only TV series where New Jersey is the
star of the show." She added that the New Jersey screening was held primarily as a
thank you to people who worked to help production go smoothly.
In other East Coast markets, such as Philadelphia, events
were tailored more to the general public, through radio and online promotions that gave
away tickets to the screening.
HBO West Coast regional manager of corporate affairs David
Castro has held six Sopranos-themed events over the past two months, designed to
serve both as consumer promotions and as sales incentives for cable affiliates.
"We had packed houses for each of these," Castro
said, calling attendees "mini-fan clubs" of the show.
Even though most screenings were held in restaurants or
clubs where talking was to be expected, the audience quieted down and paid attention to
the show, Castro and other regional managers said.
While TheSopranos screenings are the hot
ticket today, the series is not the first that HBO has promoted through local screenings.
According to vice president of corporate affairs Henry Gomez, the premium network hosts
about 100 screenings per year for its series, documentaries and original films.
Castro said his region hosted Sex and the City
parties for singles at upscale bars last year, which generated a lot of local press for
While HBO does not typically sign new customers at the
local screenings, Castro said, the consumer feedback for The Sopranos was
overwhelming. "We had a lot of people who told us they'd now be interested in
getting HBO," he added, "and others told us they'd never had HBO and TheSopranos was the reason they do."
Not only consumers who are caught up in the show. "We
understand there are CSRs [customer-service representatives] who get together to have Sopranos
screening parties," Southeast and Caribbean regional manager of corporate affairs Pat
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