History’s eight-hour 2015 tentpole series Texas Rising was modestly described this morning by its EP Leslie Greif as a “saga about a period of nine months when people of all ethnicities were trying to find a little place of freedom, called Texas.”

Kicking off a Q&A for that series, what he described as “another major commitment to high-quality historical drama,” network EVP and GM Dirk Hoogstra said he gave Greif just one note about the script: “F*cking awesome.”

With a similar 19th century setting, the same production company (Thinkfactory Media) and one of the same stars (Bill Paxton) Texas Rising has been carefully positioned as a follow-up to History’s hugely successful Hatfields & McCoys. That includes a Memorial Day premiere. But, in advance of that launch, Texas Rising will get what “to my knowledge is going to be the first television sneak preview premiere in theaters” on one night, said Greif, explaining Fathom Events has arranged the screening in 17,000 theaters across all major theater chains; he forecast the preview would result in “almost 30 million views.” To celebrate, the project is making a donation to the renovation of the Alamo, the former Catholic mission and fortress located in present-day San Antonio. It’s the site of the bloody 1836 battle that kicks off the first five minutes of Texas Rising, which runs through the inauguration of Sam Houston — whose Battle of San Jacinto victory won Texas’ independence from Mexico — as the first president of the Republic of Texas.

Greif said the project is a “saga that tells a big story,” which he added is “something you don’t see on television any more.” Some of the critics in the room might have disagreed, but they let it pass. “We made a film — it’s just airing on television.”

Series director Roland Joffe expanded on that theme, calling it a “fascinating time of change” in which television has “really comes of age” because technology now allows television to “engage in spectacle.”

“The immersive thing that happens with film can happen in your home,” he said. “To that end, Texas Rising was shot in cinemascope,” Greif added.

Yes, David Lean and Sergio Leone’s names got dropped.