The first weekend of Summer Blockbuster Season traditionally has one gigantic film, and one smaller film that is sacrificed to the box-office gods as “counter-programming.” As this year’s season begins, it is of course “Spider-Man 3” that is the 800-pound gorilla, while “Lucky You,” a rather bad gambling drama is offered up as something you can see if all the showings of “Spider-Man 3” are sold out.
“Spider-Man 3” has already set a new record, by the way, by opening in 4,252 theaters. Considering many of those theaters will be showing it on two or more screens, the actual number of screens is something like 8,000 — 1 in 5 of all the movie screens in America.
Sony Pictures demonstrated an unusual strategy in the way it screened the film for us. We movie critics got to see it almost two weeks early instead of a few days early; it was a press-only screening instead of an open-to-the-public, promotional, radio-station-sponsored hootenanny; and the theater’s concessions stand was wide open, anything we wanted, and Sony would foot the bill. I’ve never seen anything like that before, except once in Utah when we were screening a locally produced film and the publicist had doughnuts and juice for us.
You’d think I’d have learned my lesson about accepting free things from movie studios, but I confess I did avail myself of a giant pretzel. (Street value: $3.)
So the red carpet was totally rolled out for us. We walk down the hall to the theater where the film is showing … and at the door is a phalanx of security guards, checking our bags for recording devices and going over our bodies with metal detectors to search for hidden cameras. In other words, “Welcome to the press-only screening of our movie, two weeks before it opens! Please enjoy some concessions, on us! Also, since we don’t actually trust you, we will be treating you like criminals.”
In the end, all their efforts paid off. Not a single one of the Portland-area film critics pirated the movie! So those security guards were worth every penny.