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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 7, 2006

More films not shown in advance to critics

By David Germain
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES Critics are being shut out of more films as studios forgo advance screenings on flicks they expect reviewers to trash, figuring the movies stand a better chance of box-office success with no reviews rather than bad ones.

So far this year, 11 movies have not screened for critics before opening day, including the Rob Schneider-David Spade sports comedy "The Benchwarmers" and Mo'Nique's fashion comedy "Phat Girlz," both opening today.

During the same period last year, just two movies did not screen in advance for reviewers.

"If we think screenings for the press will help open the movie, we'll do it," said Dennis Rice, publicity chief for Disney, which did not show its fright flick "Stay Alive" to critics before it opened in March. "If we don't think it'll help open the movie or if the target audience is different than the critics' sensibilities, then it may make sense not to screen the movie."

Movies that do not screen ahead of time generally are genre flicks such as horror stories or youth comedies whose audiences pay little heed to critics.

Television's "Ebert and Roeper and the Movies," added a jab at Hollywood whenever a studio did not screen a flick for critics. Along with their "thumbs-up, thumbs-down," Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper used to include a "wagging finger of shame" for films they were not shown.

Of the films that have not screened for critics this year, three debuted as their weekend's top movies: The vampire sequel "Underworld Evolution," the fright flick "When a Stranger Calls" and the domestic comic drama "Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion."

Sony, the studio behind "The Benchwarmers" and three other films not screened for critics this year, declined to comment. Executives at other distributors that decided against screenings 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate and Fox Searchlight either declined to comment or did not return calls.