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G.I. Joe cleans up at the box office

G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra grossed an estimated $56.2 million over the three-day weekend, which should vindicate Paramount Pictures executives who decided to unleash the high-profile, big-budget film without screening it in advance for critics.

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I knew the movie was going to open well after I caught the three o'clock show at the Regal South Beach yesterday. The theater was two-thirds full, mostly with rambunctious kids on some kind of field trip. Although it took them a little while to settle down, stop recording the movie on their cell phones and quit throwing popcorn at my head, they eventually got into the film, remained engrossed throughout and cheered at the end.

I still think Paramount made a mistake in hiding G.I. Joe. The film was never going to be critically beloved, but once you decide not to screen in advance, you're essentially admitting your movie stinks, so reviewers walk into the theater on opening day predisposed to trash it. No matter how G.I. Joe fares at the box office, it will forever be tainted with the stink of a turkey.

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My guess is that the reviews for G.I. Joe would have been a lot more forgiving if Paramount had had the conviction to just embrace the movie as the vaguely tongue-in-cheek, live-action cartoon it is. Negative reviews didn't hurt Transformers 2 and they're not going to affect G.I. Joe, either.

By painting the no-screening decision as an us-versus-them deal, and saying the film was made for the American heartland instead of cynical big-city critics, Paramount Pictures vice chairman Rob Moore comes off as a used car salesman trying to pawn off his lemon on middle America, where tastes are apparently less demanding or something.

"There are a group of people we think are going to respond to the movie who are normally not the first priority," Moore told the L.A. Times. "But we're making them a priority." That is classic studio-speak for "Suckers."

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