EXCLUSIVE: A short film reuniting the creature from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Henry Thomas, who played Elliott in the 1982 original, is premiering Thursday on NBC, Syfy and on the website of Comcast Xfinity.
The film, titled A Holiday Reunion, has a running time of a bit more than four minutes (watch it above). It shows E.T. returning to Earth and reconnecting with Elliott, who now has a wife and two children bearing a striking resemblance to a young Thomas and Drew Barrymore, who played Elliott’s sister, Gertie. Along with nodding to signature elements from the original, the film briefly plugs Xfinity. (“It’s called the internet,” Elliott’s son explains to E.T. “A lot’s changed since you were here,” his father notes.)
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A two-minute version aired on NBC’s broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and will also be included in movie theater pre-shows during the long holiday weekend. Syfy will play the longer version during linear airings Thursday evening of the original E.T. A 30-second edit will run during ad breaks of not only NBC’s prime-time NFL telecast but also NFL games on CBS and Fox, and then across the dial throughout the holiday season. The campaign is slated to air through January 5, accompanied by presence in the retail stores of Xfinity, a broadband and video platform serving 31 million U.S. households.
“The audience is going to get everything they want out of a sequel without the messy bits that could destroy the beauty of the original and the special place it has in people’s minds and hearts,” Thomas said.
E.T. played for months in theaters, grossing $359 million in the U.S. and another $304 million internationally en route to nine Oscar nominations and four wins. Subsequent re-releases of the film have boosted its worldwide cumulative gross to nearly $800 million. Spielberg at one point pondered some ideas for a sequel, but soon moved on, sensing too much creative risk in trying to top a classic.
The filmmaker responded favorably, though, when the idea of an E.T.-centered reunion around the theme of “connection” was pitched by Comcast’s ad agency, Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Spielberg never took the creative controls, but was consulted throughout the process.
Lance Acord, an accomplished cinematographer known for films like Lost in Translation and Adaptation, directed A Holiday Reunion. He has specialized in recent years in directing commercials, earning numerous awards for distinctively cinematic spots like The Force for Volkswagen and Misunderstood for Apple.
On a corporate level, the promotion allows Comcast to present its portfolio of businesses in a single, synergistic initiative. The company declined to specify a budget for the film, but it is certainly not a cheap-looking affair. It combines a cornerstone Universal Pictures property with Comcast’s marquee broadband and video platform, delivering the message via NBCUniversal networks and Comcast dig