Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Does Anyone Care If Critics See Movies In Advance?

The short answer is of course "no." But some film critics have been getting in a lather about the increasing practice of movie studios not screening some of their junk movies like "The Messenger" (and perhaps "Ghost Rider") to critics before the movie opens. Does this hurt the box office by losing out on the free press of reviews on the Friday a film opens? Of course not, since no one going to see bad horror flicks knows or cares what critics have to say about it. Can critics help a movie's box office? As Roger Ebert -- and most critics -- say, critics can help a little on little movies, steering people towards smaller films they might have otherwise avoided. And sure if a big movie gets viciously bad movies, someone on the fence who actually cares what critics think might decide against checking a film out. But that's a small minority. Whatever critics say about Eddie Murphy's "Norbit," it won't change one bit the movie's opening weekend. Even if they love it, it's still a certain type of movie that will attract a certain type of audience. Only in the long-term can massive critical praise make any difference and even then it's usually for something small like "Little Miss Sunshine" that they can have an effect. Holding back horror films and indeed most movies from critics doesn't hurt the openign weekend box office at all. Would anyone headed to Martin Scorsese's The Departed have stayed away because critics didn't review it on that Friday? Of course not.

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