At colleges all around the country, Disney is holding free screenings of Toy Story 3 in hopes of exciting a demographic it calls “the Andyites” (twentysomethings who were little tikes when the first movie came out). Sounds like an unusually generous move, right? Wrong! These screenings, advertised as “cliffhanger” editions, are only showing the first 65 minutes of the film. The studio chopped off the final chase scene because it hopes to get students to come back out and pay exorbitant prices to see it in 3-D in June. Maybe, Disney is hoping, they’ll bring a bunch of friends, too. And maybe, Disney is also hoping, they’ll talk up the movie on social-networking sites in the meantime.
This isn’t a revolutionary strategy. The first fifteen minutes of Avatar were screened in theaters for free last August. But fifteen minutes of a three-hour movie is just what you need to get excited for more. Giving people two-thirds of a movie and then asking them to pay to see the ending? That’s just cruel.