2006 has been a significant just-say-no year as far as publicists screening (or not screening) movies for critics and journos. Earlier this year the trend of publicists deciding against holding press-screenings of mediocre movies seemed to accelerate. And now there’s a new development affecting…well, just Hollywood Elsewhere right now, but maybe others as the trend spreads. I’m speaking of being barred from screenings of a couple of films because of too much meanness and negativity in my postings.
I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that I’m off the invite list to screenings of Running With Scissors, in part because I wrote a piece about the implications of Ryan Murphy‘s film not going to Toronto (“The Old Toronto Sidestep” — a carefully-sculpted, fair-minded piece if I ever wrote one), and partly due to other jottings that have cast shadows. And apparently because I’ve been trashing Columbia and Sofia Coppola‘s Marie-Antoinette (once again — a very well-made, bold-stroke movie that I personally despise for its shallowness). And perhaps because I’ve also thoroughly trashed Columbia’s Stranger Than Fiction.
There’s another situation happening with Disney, apparently because I ran a negative pre-release review about the deplorable Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. My piece followed the two trade reviews plus David Poland‘s rave, in which he used the word “joy” to describe the way Pirates had made him feel (and would presumably make others feel). Disney didn’t like that I did this (it’s okay to run raves in advance but publicists naturaly want pans to run on opening day) and of course we all know what a fatal blow critics reviews were to the grosses of both Pirate pics.
One result is that Disney didn’t invite me to Monday’s all-media showing of The Guardian. No great loss, you might say. But now I’m wondering if they’re going to do the same thing with screenings of Chris Nolan‘s The Prestige (10.20), which is supposed to be quite good.
I don’t know if these shut-outs are necessarily the beginnings of studio vendettas (probably not — every day brings a new negotiation, a new set of cirumstances), but I know now that at least two distribution execs from Disney and Columbia marketing have followed the example of a situation that was happening at the end of last year with New Line Cinema (which has had a long-standing problem with my anti-Peter Jackson rants — can anyone think of a franchise more impervious to the slings and arrows of sourpusses like myself than the Lord of the Rings trilogy?) .
And I’m starting to wonder if this is just a flare-up, or will it increase, or will it just be a constant factor from here on?
The bottom line is that studio publicists are freaking more and more about high-profile internet buzz, and the message in all of these shut-outs is obviously, “Cool your jets, consider the political realities, use more modifiers, play a better game of pattycake…or else.”
On one level I can see their point. A studio is certainly not obliged to provide free access to product before it is in the marketplace. But to those leaning in this direction, I say this: No, you’re not obliged to show it to me…but you’re obviously making a statement by saying no to screenings. If you were to say, ‘Here’s our film, take a look but absolutely no reviews until opening day’, I would respect that and adhere. But you’ve chosen to be instinctual and defensive instead, and that, as you must understand, speaks volumes.