The other weekend, I was at the New Jersey Shore, soaking up some sun on the beach, when a helicopter flew out over the water. All of a sudden, a rope ladder dropped from it, and a military dude climbed down. Everyone on the beach watched in awe—we all thought we were about to witness some kind of dramatic rescue. Until the guy unfurled a “G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra” banner. There weren’t that many people on this specific beach, so I imagined that this helicopter, and probably many like it, had been going from beach to beach along the Eastern and Western seaboards to spread the word about the flick, which stars hottie Channing Tatum, sharp-dresser Sienna Miller, and Amelia’s new boyfriend Joseph Gordon-Levitt. [See you opening night, JGL! -- Editor] “Sheesh, they’re pumping a lot of resources into this movie,” I thought.
So I was kind of shocked when Paramount studios announced that they wouldn’t be holding screenings of “G.I. Joe” so that critics could check it out and review it. [AP via Google News]Over the years, it’s become common knowledge that if a studio doesn’t let reviewers see a movie, it’s probably because it’s so horrendously terrible, they’re terrified of it getting torn to shreds before people run to the theaters to see on the opening weekend. Some movies that notoriously didn’t allow in reviewers: the vom-worthy Richard Gere and Winona Ryder romance flick, “Autumn in NY”; ridiculous horror movie “The Fog”; “Phat Girlz” starring Mo’Nique; and “The Benchwarmers,” the Rob Schneider and David Spade vehicle that many have put on their “Worst Movies Of All Times” list.
So far this year, 16 movies have opted to skip critic screenings. Some of the highlights: “Madea Goes To Jail,” “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans,” “SAW 5,” and “My Best Friend’s Girl.” Peter Sciretta over at Slashfilm.com has done an awesome analysis of all 16 flicks (complete with graph!), and found that only one of the lot got a decent RottenTomatoes.com score. [Slashfilm]
Still, studios insist that there are other reasons they choose not to pre-screen a movie. One reason—because they think there’s a built-in audience for the movie who’ll go see it no matter what. Also, pre-screening movies is super expensive. If they think the movie’s audience pays zero attention to reviews and that they won’t get their money’s worth, they don’t bother.
Obviously, expense doesn’t seem to be the issue with “G.I. Joe.” Paramount says that this is a case where they’re reaching for a totally different audience than those who tend to listen to reviewers—they’re going for middle American movie-goers, and not for peeps in media-saturated cities like New York and Los Angeles. While they haven’t screened the film for critics, they have shown it to a a handful of bloggers. And they’ve done other random screenings—like one on Friday at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland for 1,000 military service members.
But I think it goes deeper than this. Here’s what the vice chairman of Paramount had to say: “`G.I. Joe’ is a big, fun, summer event movie—one that we’ve seen audiences enjoy. 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.”
Kind of seems like this may be giving a big middle finger to reviewers for trashing “Transformers,” no?