Studios are declining to arrange advance screenings for critics not only for their cheapo horror flicks, as in the past, but for just about any film likely to receive negative reviews, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, noting that this year 11 movies were not screened for critics -- versus just two at this time last year. Three of the films, Underworld: Evolution, When a Stranger Calls, and Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion opened in first place at the box office. Two films scheduled to open at the this coming weekend, The Benchwarmers and Phat Girlz are also not being shown. Studios declined to discuss the reasons for not screening them, but Richard Roeper, who cohosts the syndicated Ebert and Roeper at the Movies, told the A.P.: "It's telling that most of them won't even comment about it, because it's obviously something they're not proud of. ... But audiences are smart. They know if a movie isn't being reviewed, it's not because the studio thinks it's great. Studios are trying to separate a moviegoer from his or her money before not only critical word but word of mouth comes down on it." In an interview with the wire service, Disney publicity chief Dennis Rice said, "If we think screenings for the press will help open the movie, we'll do it. ... If we don't think it'll help open the movie or if the target audience is different than the critics' sensibilities, then it may make sense not to screen the movie."
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