Mr. Movie

My rant to Paramount about 'G.I. Joe'

Paramount refused to screen G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra for critics.

Only select writers from some blogs and movie Web sites got the privilege. As you expect from such sites, the reviews have been positive.

That’s probably why they were picked.

Some of the reports I’ve read from the critics who did see the movie say they don’t think keeping it away from mainstream media is going to make any difference. The general sense is that G.I. Joe is a pretty good movie for what it is and that audiences, and critics, will probably like what they see.

My intention here isn’t to tick off Paramount, although my numerous emails to the studio representative and a subsequent phone call complaining about not being able to screen the film for my readers did manage to get the rep a little miffed. I have apologized, and we have moved on.

But I won’t apologize for being concerned that mainstream film critics were left out because Paramount is worried about negative reviews. Here’s what Rob Moore, the vice-chairman of Paramount Pictures said:

"'G.I. Joe' is a big, fun, summer event movie — one that we've seen audiences enjoy everywhere from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to Phoenix, Ariz. After the chasm we experienced with Transformers 2 between the response of audiences and critics, we chose to forgo opening-day print and broadcast reviews as a strategy to promote G.I. Joe. We want audiences to define this film."

Rob, maybe we would have liked it, too. Though the trailer didn’t test well, the film looked big — and fun — to me. The same kids that grew up on Transformers grew up on G.I. Joe, too. They’re going to see it whether mainstream critics like it or not.

Some of the critics you left out of the process grew up on G.I. Joe.

And the audience did define the film. Transformers 2: The Revenge of the Fallen has grossed the most money this year at the box office and is still the No. 10 film in the nation in terms of box office income. To date it has earned $388 million. That’s huge.

At the end of a critic’s screening, critics will often gather and talk a little bit about a movie. One of the younger, Web-based critics was flabbergasted that I didn’t like the second Transformers movie.

“It’s Transformers, how can you not like Transformers?” he asked, incredulous that I would dare not like the movie.

That’s why it earned $388 million and we’re not into DVDs, director’s cuts, Blue Ray or any of that yet. Paramount made gazillions on the movie — negative reviews or not.

Our jabs had zero effect on the box office outcome. I think this is where Rob Moore and the honchos at Paramount miss what critics do. We analyze the film and point out our opinion of the good points and bad. Our readers read them, ignore our analysis and go anyway.

To get cliché, I wish I had $1 for every time someone has come up to me in the past 18 years and said, “If you like a movie, I hate it.” Others trust my judgment but still flock to flicks like G.I. Joe.

Readers love the game. I have as many detractors as fans. But they read me anyway. Americans love to disagree, debate and complain when someone doesn’t agree with their point of view.

I guess this is my message to Paramount and to Rob Moore. Please don’t leave us out in the future. Our readers go to your movies. The Tri-City Herald has a lot of loyal readers. Though I have never seen data, I suspect my column is one of the paper’s most popular features. And this blog is the most popular on — the A&E Web site for the Herald. (Editor's note: Mr. Movie's blog routinely ranks among the top five across all the Tri-City Herald's sites.)

Our readers — your income source — want to know about your movies. And they don’t want to go to the tabloids or other Web sites to get their information. They want it from their local, trusted source.

Please do some research. Check with theater owners, managers and film bookers. They will tell you that reviews of movies help — not hurt — at the box office. It’s free publicity. Even a negative review will not dramatically affect income and the more often than not will lure viewers, not chase them away.

I wish Rob Moore and Paramount much success with G.I. Joe. I want all movies to do well. I want all movies to be seen in movie theaters. It is where they belong. Films lose something on smaller screens and on home theater systems.

Film critics love this industry. And we love movies. That’s why some of us attend two to 10 movies each week and write about them. It’s not just a job, it’s a passion. We understand the challenge you face and the strain you endure to get a film from pre-production to theaters. It takes a tremendous amount of skill from a large number of people to make a movie — even a bad one.

Rob, we love your movies. And we love your studio. Please — in the future — let us see your movies. And not just for us, but for our readers, the people that support you by seeing your movies.

Thanks for the ear.