In his Friday (4.11) column, Variety‘s Peter Bart pointed to three recent instances in which distributors seemed to step away from apparent clunkers — Valkyrie, Leatherheads and Drillbit Taylor — or at least try to wash their hands of the odor. Their “bad habits,” he said, have included the following:
* “Scheduling, then canceling, critics’ screenings. As in the case of Leatherheads, this is the equivalent of announcing to the media community that a picture doesn’t play. The critics will hammer it anyway, but maybe a couple of days later.”
* “Scaling down expectations: As with Drillbit Taylor, the marketing folks created a lowball forecast for the opening weekend, then gloated when they hit that number. None of this gets away from the basic fact that the film didn’t perform.”
* “Delaying release dates: When studios say they’ve found a ‘more appropriate’ date for a film many months later, the subtext usually is they don’t want red ink splashed over their quarterly results. Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise, has been delayed twice (it’s now slated for 2.13.09) and, while United Artists insists the film has excellent prospects, the glimmer of doubt is still put out there.”