The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Lionsgate keeping critics far, far away from 'Killers'

May 27, 2010 |  4:55 pm

Ahton_kutcher You'd think that Lionsgate would just be busting its buttons with pride to show off "Killers," which stars Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl and is one of the costliest in-house productions in the company's history. It's also one of the rare films that Lionsgate, which tends to stay out of the way of the studio big guns, believed to be commercial enough to merit an early summer wide release.

But if the early word of mouth on the movie was already bad, it just got worse with the news that Lionsgate has now acknowledged--via this solidly reported post from the Associated Press' Christy Lemire--that the studio won't be screening the film ahead of time for critics. It's a tried and true strategy that studios use to prevent bad buzz from spiraling out of control, at least until they've had a chance to squeeze some moola out of opening-weekend audiences who've been gulled into showing up on Friday night by the studio's trailers and TV spots.

Still, it's one thing to keep critics away--and another thing to come up with a preposterous excuse for doing so. I guess people in Hollywood just love to tell whoppers, which is the nice way of saying that when things go wrong they come up with explanations that are about as believable as BP's rationale for why its Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been sending as much as 100,000 barrels of crude oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico every day.

When a wintertime movie has a lousy opening, you often read quotes from the studio's distribution chief blaming it on an East Coast snowstorm. When an director quits a film two weeks before it was supposed to start shooting, you always hear about "creative differences," when it's really because the filmmaker, after having one too many screaming fights with the star, said "It's him or me."

So when asked why it wasn't screening "Killers" for any critics, Lionsgate issued a statement saying:

"In today's socially connected marketplace, we all have the ability to share feedback instantly around the world. In keeping with this spirit, Lionsgate and the filmmakers want to give the opportunity to moviegoing audiences and critics alike to see 'Killers' simultaneously, and share their thoughts in the medium of their choosing. We felt this sense of immediacy could be a real asset in the marketing of 'Killers.' " 

Let me provide a helpful English translation for all that gobbledygook: Sorry guys, but we know our movie is a dog. We're not gonna let you see it a minute before the first sucker who plunks down his $10. We know that as soon as he gets out of the theater, he'll be tweeting about what a stinker he just saw. 

Photo: Katherine Heigl, left, and Ashton Kutcher in a scene from "Killers." Credit: Melissa Moseley / Lionsgate

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