Studios opt to not screen movies in advance for critics all the time, the logic being "Why spend good money to show a bad film to people who are going to turn around and tell the whole world just how wretched it is?"
I normally don't care that pictures like MacGruber or Legion are released without press screenings. If the people who made the movie think it sucks, then they're doing me a favor by saving me two hours of my life. What does irk me is when a studio tries to rationalize their decision to hide a film from persnickety critics with some psychobabble.
Paramount Pictures vice chairman Rob Moore did it last summer when he decided to hide the would-be blockbuster G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra from reviewers, claiming "After the chasm we experienced with Transformers 2 between the response of audiences and critics, we chose to forgo opening-day print and broadcast reviews as a strategy to promote G.I. Joe. We want audiences to define this film."
At least Moore was honest: He was essentially saying G.I. Joe was just as bad as Transformers 2. But Lionsgate is taking a different approach to its decision to not screen the Ashton Kutcher-Katherine Heigl comedy Killers, which opens Friday. In a feeble effort to combat the negative buzz surrounding themovie, the company issued the following statement:
“In today’s socially connected marketplace, we all have the ability to share feedback instantly around the world. In keeping with this spirit, Lionsgate and the filmmakers want to give the opportunity to moviegoing audiences and critics alike to see Killers simultaneously, and share their thoughts in the medium of their choosing. We felt this sense of immediacy could be a real asset in the marketing of Killers.“
I have read that statement three times and am still not sure what it means. But I think the message here is "We'd rather wait until people start tweeting about how bad Killers is, and hopefully have racked up a few million dollars in tickets sales before then, rather than have critics slaughter it from the start.
Who says critics don't matter any longer?
Meanwhile, Kutcher is promising to "pirate" the first 10 minutes of the movie tonight live from the premiere via his Twitter feed, to give audiences a taste of what they're in for. Desperation, anyone?
Lionsgate has a substantial history of not screening movies for critics that turned out to be really decent B-pictures (Crank, Hostel II, Daybreakers). I don't blame them for not screening the Saw sequels, because no one in their right mind would want to sit through those. But I do think the studio is awfully sensitive about protecting their pictures from those mean, cranky critics. Then again, Killers was directed by Robert Luketic, whose previous film was The Ugly Truth. So maybe they are doing the right thing.