Sony/Revolution’s “The Benchwarmers” is the latest pic to get the no-press-screening treatment. Despite the film’s Adam Sandler branding — pic was produced by his Happy Madison shingle — the studio felt the pic’s baseball locker room humor wouldn’t win over high-minded critics and didn’t schedule screenings.
Critics are thus being forced to see the movie along with everyone else, when the pic opens today.
Sony did host a baseball-themed premiere, complete with a “green carpet,” as well as promotional screenings for the pic.
Sony marketing honcho Valerie Van Galder said the decision to not screen the pic wasn’t defensive but strategic: “Benchwarmers” is a “crowd-pleasing comedy which was screened for journalists who interviewed our stars, as well as at word of mouth screenings across the country. We felt that this was the best route in marketing a film that is primarily targeted to an audience that’s a little younger than the traditional film critic. We think it’s hilarious, and we’re not trying to hide it.”
Sony’s decision isn’t unprecedented — if anything, it’s becoming more common as studios try to control bad buzz in a media landscape dominated by the often free-wheeling Internet.
Most genre films don’t screen for the press, and occasionally, even major pics with major stars, such as Paramount’s Charlize Theron starrer “Aeon Flux,” aren’t screened.
Another comedy opening this week, Fox Searchlight’s “Phat Girlz,” also went unscreened.
“Benchwarmers” is a surprising case, however, as the film is a broad comedy with a solid, comedy-cred cast of Rob Schneider, David Spade and Jon Heder. What’s more, the baseball comedy genre has an equally solid history (think “Bull Durham” and “Major League”). Last summer, Sony had no qualms about screening another Rob Schneider comedy, “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.”