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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: ‘Killers’ not screening for critics; how long before nothing screens for critics?

It’s so common these days that I’ve stopped thinking about it as unusual: Lots of movies simply are not screened for critics before they open. (I’ve even stopped bothering to keep a list of these movies, which I did last year and started this year before it just got too depressing.) So I didn’t think much about it when my Lionsgate rep told me that Killers, the dire-looking “comedy” starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher, would get only a “courtesy” screening on the morning it opens in multiplexes.

But then again, I didn’t ask for any clarification. Christy Lemire of the Associated Press did, and this is what she heard in response from Lionsgate:

We want to capitalize on the revolution in social media by letting audiences and critics define this film concurrently. 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 that this sense of immediacy could be a real asset in the marketing of “Killers.”

Patrick Goldstein at The Big Picture helpfully translates:

Sorry guys, but we know our movie is a dog. We’re not gonna let you see it a minute before the first sucker who plunks down his $10. We know that as soon as he gets out of the theater, he’ll be tweeting about what a stinker he just saw.

So, Killers — which Lemire reports cost $70 million to produce, which is a lot for Lionsgate, which generally sticks to cheap-to-make Saw and Tyler Perry movies — is not screening for critics. How long before nothing screens for critics?

Not that I think not screening works to hide a stinker: everyone knows now what it means when there are no reviews up on opening day. But when did Hollywood ever act rationally?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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