A SCENE FROM “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.”
© 2015 CTMG, Inc.
If it takes a few days for official press reviews of a movie to start hitting the Internet, that’s usually a really bad sign for the movie.
That lack of reviews means that there were no press screenings for a movie, as is the case with this week’s “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.” Generally, this means only one thing – the studio is so certain their movie is terrible that they don’t want any reviews out before opening weekend. Given the number of truly awful movies they are happy to screen (this year’s “Blackhat” springs to mind), these are some very low standards the movies are apparently failing.
It’s a desperate ploy, and they know it. The studios can’t completely stop word getting out – online buzz is a monster that can’t be silenced – but they’re hoping to contain it so they can get as many people as possible to wander blindly into the theater and buy tickets. Yes, you can warn the people that come after you, but by then your money will already be gone.
Sadly, the numbers support the no-review con game, at least a little. “Blackhat,” which did get a screening, had a truly tragic domestic gross of $7,899,395 according to boxofficemojo.com (to put that number in perspective, “Furious 7” picked up $147,187,040 just in its opening weekend). “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” which didn’t get a screening, picked up $12,314,651. Both are absolutely horrible numbers, true, but the take for “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” was just a little bigger.
It’s not fair to audiences, though. If the studios can’t make a decent movie, they owe it to us to at least sound a warning bell about the impending disaster. There will be those who go to see the movie anyway – “Fifty Shades of Grey” made money, after all – but those who know better might just be spared a horrible fate.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. One of my favorite movies in the entire world is “Tombstone,” which stars Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday. It’s a wonderful little movie, funny, sad and exciting all at once, and features some of the best performances I’ve ever seen by the cast. Seriously – Val Kilmer has never done better work than he does in this movie. The man should have been nominated for an Oscar.
But he wasn’t, because those kinds of things are reliant on buzz. “Tombstone” had no buzz, at least not when the movie was released, because the studio decided it shouldn’t have a screening. The critics who wrote about it afterward were all pretty positive, but they all missed that first wave.
I, like the rest of the world, found the movie after it had been released on video or hit the cable reruns. It’s got a pretty good reputation, these days, making imdb.com’s Top 5,000 movies list and scoring a respectable 73 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If we’d all believed the studio’s opinion of the movie, we’d have missed out on something pretty great.
No matter what the truth turns out to be – and let’s be honest, there will be far more movies like “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” then there will be “Tombstone” – don’t let the studio pull one over on you. See if you can find comments from your friends. Make your own decisions. If nothing else, wait until the following weekend so you can actually read some reviews.
The studios won’t like it. But since they don’t really care what we think, we shouldn’t care what they think, either.