‘Phantom’ flubs with guilded cages

Misunderstanding leads to no-shows

“Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” might have opened to the public Wednesday, but it won’t be playing the showbiz “guild” circuit until weeks from now.

A “misunderstanding” had led the guilds to believe “Phantom” would never be made available for screenings. Now schedules are set and there’s no immediate room for George Lucas’ prequel.

Twentieth Century Fox’s domestic film group chairman Tom Sherak said the company’s original policy had been not to have any advance “guild” screenings but to “let the picture open and give everybody the same opportunity to see it. We weren’t having any advance screenings, not just advance guild screenings.”

Sherak said he just learned Monday that a “misunderstanding” had led the guilds to believe that at no point would a “Phantom” print be made available. He pointed to “there being just so much going on around this movie” as the oversight’s cause.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it was notified Monday that a print would be available. However, May and June screening schedules have been established and July would be the earliest a date would be open. Anytime sooner and another film’s screening would have to be canceled.

According to Screen Actors Guild associate director of communications Greg Krizman, SAG has not yet been advised about the change in policy. Currently, there are no plans to attempt arranging a “Phantom” screening. Krizman said, “Even if we got a print, realistically most members would have paid to see it by the time we could screen it in July or August.”

The Directors Guild, which was notified of the policy change this week, has requested a print and will have four screenings for members on July 3.

A Writers Guild spokesperson said the WGA was just recently told by Fox “the policy has changed. There might have been a misunderstanding.” A screening will probably be held “if things can be shifted around” in June.

“Everybody at Fox and Lucasfilm is sorry about the misunderstanding,” Sherak said.