By EW Staff
Updated April 20, 2006 at 12:00 PM EDT
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Credit: Benchwarmers: Darren Michaels

So Forbes.com’s Marc E. Babej and Tim Pollak may have a point about more and more movie studios skipping advance screenings for critics: It may make good business sense to cut reviewers out of the loop. But it’s a lousy deal for moviegoers.

Addressing the much-discussed fact that the studios have withheld 11 movies from film critics already this year (including Benchwarmers, pictured), up from just 2 in the same period a year ago, the authors sneer that critics object because their egos are bruised. Critics, according to these guys, are hooked on the “VIP treatment” of advance screenings. (VIP treatment? Babej and Pollak have clearly not logged too many midweek afternoons in the decrepit Midtown screening rooms where most films are previewed, trying to find something — anything — to say about the latest cynically contrived paint-by-numbers studio product.) No, critics object to this studio strategy simply because it makes it impossible for them to do their job: to give readers an informed opinion as to whether a particular movie is worth ten bucks of their savings and two hours of their lives.

Luckily, more and more moviegoers are getting information not only from newspapers and magazines but also from the Web, where traditional deadlines no longer apply. So the days are numbered when studios can successfully stifle critics and increase the chances a crappy movie will enjoy a strong opening weekend: Now critics can see the first show and post a response on a new movie’s opening afternoon — say, right here on EW.com.

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