Friday, February 25, 2005
If you're looking for a review of "Cursed" or "Man of the House" in your newspaper this morning, you're not going to find one -- in any newspaper anywhere. Opening in theaters nationwide today, these two movies have been kept hidden from critics because, to be blunt, the studios think they're garbage and want to rake in as much money as they can before word gets out.
Of course, nobody will admit to this at Dimension Films or Columbia Pictures, which are releasing the junkers. But it's no coincidence that every movie Hollywood doesn't screen in advance -- either by not holding previews until the night before opening or not holding them at all -- is largely lambasted once critics and audiences have caught up with it.
Every year in January and February, and again in late August/early September, studios traditionally dump their worst offerings onto the market, hoping the lack of new big-draw blockbusters will translate into profits for any new movie with heavy TV advertising -- which is why you probably haven't been able to escape ads for "Cursed" and "Man of the House" in the last two weeks.
In 2004 for example, nine movies were released without screenings (which may be a record), including "Alien vs. Predator," "Exorcist: The Beginning" and "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid" in August alone, and "The Cookout" and "Paparazzi" one week later.
And with the strategy working better than ever -- the five aforementioned titles took in more than $180 million collectively despite huge drop-offs in ticket sales after bad word of mouth -- Hollywood hucksters will likely be encouraged to continue cranking out crappy movies and hiding them from critics, counting on suckers to make them rich. It worked two weeks ago when the unscreened "Boogeyman" opened at No. 1, based on nothing but a slick ad capaign.
Whether you give a hoot what critics have to say or not, you should regard the lack of Friday morning reviews to be a huge red flag when considering shelling out $8 to $10 for the latest heavily-hyped wannabe blockbuster. Because when that happens, it's not some cinema snob with a newspaper byline telling you the movie is rubbish -- it's the people who made the movie admitting to it themselves and just hoping you're not smart enough to listen.