Last year we were one of the first sites to break the story on Hollywood’s new policy of hiding bad movies from critics in order to trick audiences into seeing them before they can find out how much the movies suck. In 2005 something like 8 major movie releases were not screened in advance, in 2006 we reached that number by March. This year, we’ve probably reached it already.

So Hollywood hiding movies from critics is nothing new, but usually it’s garbage movies that probably nobody cares about anyway. If it’s a high-profile, major release it usually gets screened. Even if it’s god awful horrible. Apparently that’s about to change, because the New York Post is reporting that Ghost Rider will not be shown to film critics. I guess that explains why it’s not on my screening schedule. Now can someone tell me why Norbit is? I was looking forward to missing that one.

They say some critics are being invited to a late-night screening the night before, but the screening will be too late for any of their reviews to make it into the papers until Saturday, after everyone has already wasted their money on a piece of shit movie on Friday. That’s the other trick Hollywood has been pulling lately. Audiences have caught on the to fact that when a movie isn’t screened for the press it’s probably going to stink, so studios have started schedulding last minute, late-night press screenings which are intentionally scheduled in such a way that there’s no way the critics attending it can get their reviews ready and out before the film’s opening night. That way they avoid the “not screened” stigma and bad reviews all at once. It’s dirty pool, and it sounds like that’s what Sony is doing with Ghost Rider.

This is a big deal, because it’s the first major tent pole film they’ve done this with. Granted, they’re releasing it in early February which isn’t exactly a hot time for big movies. By dumping it there I suppose they’ve already given it a vote of no confidence. This is just them punching an extra hole in the no confidence card. Still, we’re talking about a $120 million superhero movie. This isn’t The Messengers or Hannibal Rising. This is Ghost Rider, and hiding that kind of major blockbuster away from the press is definitely a first.

So, what does that mean to you? Don’t waste your money, that’s what. This is Sony Pictures basically admitting they have a lousy movie. If even the company releasing it thinks Ghost Rider is bad, then it really must be. Poor Nic Cage, he’s in another stinker.

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