Poll: Does It Worry You If a Movie Isn’t Screened for Critics?

20th Century Fox spent $200 million making this summer’s alien invasion sequel ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ and probably nearly as much advertising it. And yet, with the movie’s theatrical release coming up just days from now, the studio is refusing to let critics see it in advance. Does that bother you at all, or will you go see it opening weekend anyway?

Generally speaking, withholding a film from critics is considered a bad sign that the studio has lost faith in the movie and expects overwhelmingly poor reviews. Preventing those reviews from being published before release date is a desperate attempt to mitigate negative buzz so that audiences won’t be scared off from seeing it. If the movie were a real crowd-pleaser, positive reviews can only help to build hype and get the audience excited. Why would the studio execs not want that to happen, unless they know their movie is a dog?

On the other hand, we live in an age where audiences have grown increasingly hostile toward film critics, who are seen as crotchety curmudgeons that derive their only meager pleasure in life from shitting all over the most awesomest movies that so-called real people want to see. (The implication being, of course, that critics are not real people, but some sort of soulless robots, or perhaps evil mutant trolls who crawl up from the sewers every couple days to see a movie and then slither back home to type their nasty missives.)

Even if you don’t care what the critics say, does it concern you that the studio is afraid to show the movie to them?

Does It Worry You If a Movie Isn't Screened for Critics?

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27 comments

  1. R F

    I heavily rely on reviews and generally won’t see a poorly received film. I don’t have the time, resources, and more importantly the patience to watch a poor or mediocre scoring film. In my experience, it’s rare that I enjoy a film scoring below 65% on RT enough to justify the time/cost. I got burnt out from too much mediocrity.

  2. ‘Evil mutant trolls who crawl up from the sewers every couple days to see a movie and then slither back home to type their nasty missives.’

    What a hilarious, brilliant sentence. I want to see a movie based on this phrase.

  3. Csm101

    The second option is closest to my feelings, although I don’t feel like there is a wrong or right answer when it comes to enjoying a movie. It’s just a person’s opinion on whether they like a movie or not. i do enjoy reading reviews and the critics I like best do a good job of explaining why they didn’t like a movie or why they like it without getting too personal about it and making it entertaining. If they shit on a movie but make me laugh while doing it, that’s all good too. As far as holding back on a screener before a big release, I don’t care that much. If I really want to see a movie, I’ll go see it no matter who says what about it. I’m personally not very interested in seeing this IDR in theaters anyways.

  4. T.J. Kats

    I am somewhere between 1 & 2. While I think not screening shows they realize the movie is probably trash, I also don’t necessarily care what the critics say. I feel that my gut reaction is usually correct so bad reviews don’t scare me off and good reviews don’t always make me more interested.

  5. NJScorpio

    It used to be that if a big summer Hollywood movie was either helmed by a director you like, starred actors you like, or was of a genre you enjoyed, gambling seeing a movie prior to reviews was no big deal.

    Now you have something like BvS:DoJ. I haven’t seen this, even though I want to. In a world prior to internet reviews, I probably would have seen it opening weekend. Yet now, even with a director who interests me and a cast that is sufficient, I’m turned off by the prospect of slogging through 3 hours of depression and death. At least with something like Jurassic World, you knew the overall tone would still be Hollywood-adventure.

    With movies being over 150 minutes, I’ll wait for reviews…and probably still wait for Blu-ray, so I can pause the movie and use the bathroom when I want to.

  6. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, a studio doesn’t screen because they don’t want plot points leaking.

    I heard a rumor a long time ago (I haven’t heard much since) that the ending to this movie was going to feature an appearance by a certain actor who didn’t agree to be in the movie – which would lead into the third film. I think that may have been just a fanboy wish, since not much has been said about it since…but you never know.

  7. Thulsadoom

    I’m more hyped to see Independence Day than any Captain America or BvS, neither of which could I gather enough enthusiasm for, to bother seeing at the cinema (My other half went to see Capt. A with a friend and thought it was pretty bad). We’re going to see ID:R this Thursday, though.

    I often read reviews (most especially here) out of curiosity, but it doesn’t bother me if a film isn’t reviewed by critics, because I often completely disagree with reviews anyway (though I find Josh often matches my tastes). 😉

    Recent example: The Force Awakens got rave reviews, even here. My girlfriend and I were thoroughly disappointed and thought it was a waste of time (and I’m a massive Star Wars fan). It was a bad film on every story-telling level, even if you discount the ways it failed as a continuation of another story.

    On the other end of the spectrum, we went to see Gods of Egypt, which is pretty much universally panned, and had a blast! It was the modern equivalent of the old Ray Harryhausen movies. It felt like the kind of movie Jupiter Ascending was trying to be, without being as mind-numbingly stupid or boring. 😉

    • You seem to be someone who enjoys spectacle over characterization, I take it? The movies you mention you like have a lot of eye candy in them, but most would probably consider them pretty lacking in character development. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…you like what you like…I just wonder who it is that likes the types of movies you mention and why they’re drawn to them.

          • Thulsadoom

            Julian: “Although, in Fury Road’s case, its definitely NOT an example of “I find Josh often matches my tastes””

            Hence the word ‘often’ not ‘always’ 😉 e.g. Dune is one of my all-time favourite science fiction movies. How did we get to Fury Road?! I enjoyed it. Didn’t think it was the best film ever, or even great as a Mad Max story, but it was great fun in the Mad Max universe.

        • Chaz

          Fury Road is perfection on screen, easily smashes total crap like Gods of Egypt….I actually liked Jupiter Ascending more than that over abundance of CGI and horrible green screen.

          • Thulsadoom

            I never compared Fury Road to Gods Of Egypt. 😉 I do think Fury Road is the superior film. All I said was that I thought GoE was big silly fun, and in that it succeeded for me. Jupiter ascending just tipped over into the absurd, repetitive, idiotic stuff a bit too much.

      • Thulsadoom

        Not at all. I enjoy both character heavy dramatic films and fun spectacle. When I get annoyed, is usually with films that are essentially fun spectacle, that also try to be clever but fail. I thought TFA was a bad film precisely for its lack of logic, plot, or character. I expected more from Star Wars. Gods of Egypt was exactly what I expected it to be. Big silly fun. A modern equivalent of the old Sinbads or Clash of the Titans.

        Both Captain America and BvS are comic book superhero films that from all I have seen, are pretentious and trying to be clever within the confines of people in silly suits doing impossible and absurd things. When films try to have messages and deep character moments whilst also being big silly blockbusters, it’s a VERY fine line. Nolan managed it with Batman Begins, but I think he failed in Dark Knight and DKR.

        If I was only after the spectacle, I would have gone to see all those films and been gushing over them all.

    • Thulsadoom

      Shannon Nutt: “You seem to be someone who enjoys spectacle over characterization, I take it?”

      Just to take issue with where you got that from… Let’s see… All of the movies I mentioned (given the context of the discussion) were big effects-filled blockbusters:

      GofE: Enjoyed
      Capt. A: Wasn’t interested enough to see cinema
      BvS: Wasn’t interested enough to see at cinema
      Force Awakens: Thought it was so poor in plot/character/logic, and was thoroughly disappointed.
      Jupiter Ascending: Thought it was mind-numbingly stupid and boring
      ID:R: Mention that I haven’t seen yet, but am interested enough to see.

      So from a total of 6 effects-filled blockbusters mentioned, where I say I thought 1 was daft but enjoyable, and one I want to see, you get that I enjoy spectacle over characterisation? 😉 If you count those percentages as “enjoying spectacle over characterisation”, I’m guessing you maybe enjoy 1 in every 100 effects-filled blockbusters?

  8. Whenever studios decide to NOT screen big titles, it makes me want to review them even more. If they know that they’ve got a dog on their hands and DON’T want the negative press, I want to see, make up my own opinion, then review it despite their best wishes. By not screening it, they’re basically telling us that it’s bad. I want to make up my own opinion of it. Because of that, I’ll be catching an 8pm IMAX 3D showing tomorrow night so I can review it on-air Friday morning 🙂

  9. -A.

    It’s not like critics are trolls from the sewers either. Thing is, everyone thinks they’re critics, and that’s actually true. My 8-year old cousin sometimes yields much more articulate (and most importabtly, more valuable) reviews than a random stranger on a website. And to measure a critique’s worth, it’s absolutely necessary to know as much about the critic as possible. I don’t care what a guy named “Shannon” says on the internet. What’s it to me? However, maybe I find out this Shannon guy studied cinematography, is a gay-right activist who loved Mad Max because of its feminist agenda (not so much for the action scenes), loves vintage electronics and has an aversion to spiders. Now, whether I coincide or not with those points of view, I now have a bar to measure his interpretations of films (or, almost anything, really). And good, articulate, informative writing helps a lot to help me determine if he’s someone whose opinion I’d give a rat’s ass. Thing is, nobody has time nowadays to become attached to a critic. The “rockstar” critics are slowly dissappearing: Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel are long gone, and how many Peter Travers are left in the world? The place to look now are magazine names and truly mainstream sites, and coupled with the fact that most movies leak online before there’s a theatrical release, then, are critics really necessary nowadays? I think they still are (specially if you found someone in particular whose reviews “feel” right) but they just don’t hold the influence they used to. Even if they want to believe so. On the internet, everybody is a rockstar.

  10. Chaz

    Dont see how this article is making any sense, are IGN and CNET and others not considered critics? I’ve already read multiple reviews, some yesterday about this movie, sounds like its a blast all over again from what I’ve been hearing, its ID4 and you know what to expect and you get it, bigger and more explosiony than before 🙂

    What and who are considered critics and is only a few days before release not considered screening? I know movies like Civil War got screen a couple of weeks before it came out in the US, but reviews are up, which made me think its being screened

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      In almost all markets, Fox has postponed critics’ screenings until Friday morning, release day. A few private industry screenings already happened in Los Angeles, which may be how IGN and CNET saw it.

      Critics’ screenings are usually held several days in advance, in order to give the critics time to write and publish their reviews.

      In most major cities, the movie will open with its first public showings late Thursday. Phil tells me he plans to see it then.

  11. Jon

    It only worries me that a good movie might not have a chance. Sime movies that I really like weren’t screened for critics and are unknown, but may have found a bigger audience if they’d even had bad reviews.
    If I relied on reviews anyway if have missed many favorites. A critic is only worth reading if you get to know them and how their opinions compare to your own. Even then it isn’t about agreeing with them all the time, but rather knowing what you agree and disagree about. I knew Ebert’s reviews well, and liked how he expressed his opinions. He led me to many favorites via good and bad reviews. I once wrote him on this topic and he replied saying that he wished more people understood the purpose of a critic.
    If you haven’t taken the time to get to know a critic you might as well ask any random person leaving the theater.

  12. Ken

    For me, it depends on the movie. Generally, I use critics’ opinions as a barometer, but then there are some movies that are pure, dumb escapism, and I just don’t give two $#^+s what the critics think.

    “Independence Day” is one of the latter.

    I’m not expecting much. Aliens, explosions, and some well-staged action with hopefully a little heart to make me care. Just be fun.

    Nine times out of ten, I’m an art house movie guy. Give me “The Lobster” any day of the week, and I’m there.

    But sometimes, I just go to turn off my brain and have a good time.

  13. Csm101

    Speaking of embargoes, it looks like Ghostbusters may be doing the same. I had a feeling this would happen, but I feel it’s a bad move and will only encourage even more negative feelings toward this release.

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