Film A Peel?
In a surprising move generally reserved for critically loathed bombs, Warner Bros. has refused to hold advance press screenings of “The Avengers,” the studio’s $50 million-plus reincarnation of the popular ’60s spy series, which opens nationwide today. Warner Bros. is enforcing a gag order on talking to the press about the issue, but a studio rep did say that there’s “nothing unprecedented” in the decision. Though the Warner rep didn’t offer a precedent, there’s a recent one that doesn’t bode well for “The Avengers”: In June, MGM failed to preview Norm Macdonald’s “Dirty Work” for the press. That film was savaged by critics (EW gave it a C-) and has yet to earn $10 million.
“Usually no press screenings means Steven Seagal is in the movie,” says EW assistant managing editor Mark Harris. “It’s a hard and fast rule that when a studio has a good movie, they want critics to see it. If Warner Bros. won’t let critics see a movie, it must be pretty bad. They even screened ‘The Postman.'”
Ironically, the studio spent a reported $30 million marketing “The Avengers,” only to have this week’s negative media coverage dominate the film’s opening day. “It’s possible that in a perverse way, Warner Bros’ strategy could lead to a bunch of reviews saying ‘It’s not so bad,'” says Harris. “That’s the best they can hope for.”