There was a time, not too long ago, when pretty much every studio film was screened for critics days, weeks or even months before their release. In those days not screening a film for critics was a tacit admission of a film’s crappiness.
That was then, this is now. Professional film critics have never wielded less power. Their numbers are declining steadily and studios are growing ever bolder in their bid them to remove them from the equation completely. Why screen Transformers 2: Check Out Megan Fox's Ass for some Poindexter killjoy who will harp upon its faults when the film’s advertising is happy to inform ticket buyers that it’s the non-stop thrill ride of the summer? Who needs a cultural conversation about a film’s merits when you can have a massive one-sided publicity blitz?
Not screening movies for critics has become so commonplace it hardly seems newsworthy but this article about Paramount’s decision not to screen G.I Joe for critics is especially sad and revealing.
The article quotes Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures as arguing self-servingly, "G.I. Joe' is a big, fun, summer event movie - one that we've seen audiences enjoy everywhere from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to Phoenix, Ariz. 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."
That’s a PR way of saying, “Critics didn’t like Transformers 2 but we made a fuck-ton of money off it so fuck you, critics; enjoy your sad little efficiencies and non-existent job security while we snort Bolivian Marching Powder off pert 19 year olds and party in the Bahamas”.
This seems a little odd, since us pointy-headed critic types usually dig Joseph Gordon-Levitt movies and this has to be a lot like Manic, Brick or Mysterious Skin, right?