The heat is obviously on for W. right now with the big junket last weekend, the ads everywhere and Lionsgate opening it on something close to 2000 screens on 10.17. But Portland critics aren’t feeling it because Lionsgate won’t be screening the Oliver Stone biopic for them. In Seattle, yes, but not Portland. And Oregonian critic Shawn Levy , understandably put off, is declaring that he won’t run a wire-service review and neither will Portland’s two alternative weeklies, Willamette Week and the Portland Mercury.
Lionsgate “blew off three lead stories [in these papers] by not screening it here,” Levy says. So we’re talking a real Mexican standoff with little W. in the middle. Will the Portland box-office suffer from local critics giving it the Big Chill? Or will TV and print ads suffice as far as Lionsgate’s interests are concerned?
The W. Portland-critic blowoff is about numbers and hardball strategy, of course. Portland’s market ranking is somewhere beyond 20th place — not a minor market but not a huge one either. And yet I’ve always thought of Portland as one of the five major Pacific coast towns that matter culturally. (Along with Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.) Levy argues that Portland is a liberal-minded burgh that supports movies it likes with a passion, and that an Oliver Stone film that reveals the tragedy of George W. Bush is right up its political alley. He also points out that Lionsgate recently screened Religulous, which plays to more or less the same market, for Portland critics.
Sidenote: W. was screened for Portland exhibitors two days ago (Tuesday) at the Fox Tower 10 cinemas. “It’s not unusual for exhibitors to get screenings and then press be denied but the lack of W. in Portland press for it’s release is quite perplexing,” a local projectionist writes. “Shawn Levy’s description of the city is quite apt. The film would have an audience in our city. George Bush Sr. even referred to our fine town as Little Beirut in response to protesters.”