Paramount Opening 'Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol' Five Days Early in Imax

Tom Cruise - Movie Still: Mission Impossible Ghost Protcol - P - 2011
Paramount Pictures

UPDATED: The Tom Cruise-tentpole begins previews in Imax and other large-format theaters on Dec. 16; Steven Spielberg's two Christmas movies "Adventures of Tintin" and "War Horse" also shift dates.

Paramount is taking the unusual step of opening Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol first in Imax and other select theaters five days before it opens everywhere Dec. 21.

In another key change to its 2011 holiday calendar, Paramount said it is moving up the release of Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin by two days to Dec. 21 (including Imax theaters). That quickly promoted Disney to announce it will now open Spielberg's second Christmas film War Horse on Christmas Day, instead of Dec. 28.

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The moves reflect an aggressive effort to capitalize on the lucatrive--and crowded--Christmas frame.

Ghost Protocol, returning Tom Cruise in the marquee role of Ethan Hunt and introducing Jeremy Renner to the franchise, now launches Dec. 16 in north of 250 theaters in what Paramount are calling preview runs.

From the beginning, Bird wanted Ghost Protocol to open first in Imax theaters, since parts of the pic were shot with Imax cameras.

And from Paramount's perspective, hosting previews should be a great way to build word-of-mouth.

"Our thought was to get the movie going heading into the Christmas. We've screened the entire movie, and the response has been fantastic. People also saw how great the Imax footage was," Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore said.

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It isn't the first time Paramount has used unorthodox measures to open a film. So far, they've worked well. This summer, Paramount held exclusive 3D showings of Transformers: Dark of the Moon the night before the movie opened nationwide. And the studio launched box office hit Paranormal Activity in 13 college towns.

With Guest Protocol, Paramount is being even more aggressive in an effort to whip up interest.