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Selling Soldiers on 'Act of Valor'

Courtesy of Navy SEALs

David Livingston/Getty Images

Relativity Media has launched a full-scale attack to generate interest in its military thriller Act of Valor, which opens Feb. 24 on about 3,000 screens. The Ryan Kavanaugh studio has held 415 screenings across the U.S. for the R-rated film, featuring real Navy SEALs as a fictionalized unit on a mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent, since picking up the $18 million budgeted movie in October for about $13 million (with a commitment to spend $30 million on marketing). "We made sure to center a lot of those screenings around locations where there is strong military concentrations," says Terry Curtin, the studio's marketing chief. That included Navy and Marine bases from Florida to Maryland and the Naval Air Station in Coronado, Calif., which Curtin knows well. She grew up on the base while her dad was a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War. Her passion was one reason co-directors Scott Waugh and Mike "Mouse" McCoy chose Relativity. "We felt like Terry Curtin really understood the movie," says Waugh, "and didn't want to make it something it wasn't." The studio has partnered with two military charities and built its online campaign around thanking SEALs for their service. They took the movie to the Defense Department and even to the commander in chief. Relativity president Tucker Tooley says that after a White House screening in January, President Obama said: " 'These are my guys,' referring to the SEALs. He was very complimentary."