The reactions to yesterday’s report from Pheonix writer/critic Henry Cabot Beck that Pheonix critics are being denied a chance to see The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford indicate that local Warner Bros. distributors are giving Andrew Dominik‘s film the bum’s rush in fairly uniform fashion around the country. As Arizona Daily Star critic Phil Villarreal remarks, “It’s the Assassination of Jesse James by the Cowards at Warner Bros.”
The Oregonian‘s Shawn Levy has written about not getting a chance to review it in time. Villarreal and Houston-based critic-blogger Joe Leydon have also reported that Warner Bros. reps are either not screening it or screening it late. The whole James effort is clearly half-hearted. One reader claimed “they’ve yet to even announce a release date for Montreal, and we’re one of the Top 10 markets in North America!”
I wrote Warner Bros. reps this morning about speaking with WB distribution president Dan Fellman about these numerous complaints.
As Levy wrote, “I can only respond with scorn to the spectacle of Warner Bros. treating their film with such dismissiveness and disdain. This was a film that received lots of publicity before its release and had a $30 million production budget (plus prints and ads — which, let’s face it, don’t cost as much when you dump the movie like this) . The reviews have been favorable from both critics and audiences. IT’S GOT BRAD PITT IN IT, for pity’s sake. Yet Warner Bros. sneaks it into Portland. With this butterfingered, half-hearted, dead-brained stealth release, they’re making their film impossible for audiences to find.”
Villarreal said that “the same situation has happened in Tucson, where I’m the morning paper’s critic. I was asked yesterday afternoon if I was interested in seeing the film on short notice, said yes, then heard nothing back.”