Krasinski says he and Damon tried to avoid too much of a political message. "We really wanted to tell a story about community, about these small towns that are going through very real situations right now, especially with the economic situation as it is," he told the AP.
Yet industry groups and environmental activists alike see "Promised Land" very much as a message film about the perils of the gas boom, and are reacting accordingly.
Drillers — who mounted a furious rebuttal of "Gasland," the 2010 award-winning, anti-drilling HBO documentary — began pushing back against "Promised Land" months ago while simultaneously noting that it is indeed a work of fiction.
"We're taking it seriously, obviously, and we'll be ready to engage folks who may have questions about the development process as a result of the film. But I'm not sure anyone's losing a lot of sleep over it at this point," emailed Chris Tucker of Energy In Depth, an industry public relations group.
"They may have Matt Damon and Jim from 'The Office' on their side, but we've got the facts, the science, the consensus of regulators, and a 65-year track record of performance and safety on ours. So we think that's a pretty fair fight."
The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group, plans to run ads in 75 percent of Pennsylvania's movie theaters, encouraging "Promised Land" audiences to visit a website that it set up earlier this year to answer questions about shale gas.
"It's difficult to fact-check a work of fiction, so I don't know if we're going to be able to do that any more than we can fact-check 'Batman,'" said spokesman Steve Forde. "But certainly shale gas development is generating discussion around dinner tables, it's an important discussion to have, and that's the angle we are looking at."
Environmentalists, meantime, are positively giddy over the film's depiction of an industry they view as dangerous to land, water, air and people. They are planning their own campaign around "Promised Land," including the distribution of anti-drilling leaflets, postcards and petitions to audiences leaving theaters.
Rebecca Roter, a Pennsylvania activist who has screened the film, said, "This is a precious opportunity to engage America on a national level about where their cheap natural gas energy is coming from and the associated human costs."
AP writer Ryan Pearson contributed to this story from Los Angeles.
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