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So it's Friday, and you're considering seeing this new movie that has just Opened In Theaters Everywhere. Before you do, you grab a copy of today's newspaper, and turn to the movie section, looking for a review.

Instead of a review, you read a notice stating that the film was "not screened for critics." This is a big warning sign about the quality of the movie. Under normal circumstances, the reviewers would have seen the film already on DVD "screeners" or private showings, and would have had plenty of time to write witty, biting criticism (or just plain vituperation) that would have completely eviscerated it. The general indication is that the studio doesn't want people to be warned away from the movie prior to opening day.

Another tactic by studios is to allow critics to see a movie days in advance...but only with a bunch of radio and TV station contest winners who were caller #7, so that instead of being able to make their notes and go through their usual routine in reviewing a film in a quiet theater or purpose-built screening room such is those in midtown New York or downtown Chicago, they have to do it in a crowded megaplex with people who probably wouldn't have seen the movie at all if they hadn't won free tickets and will probably like the movie only because they didn't have to pay to see it, or in the case of films targeted for children and teens, probably love it no matter what and act like...well, rowdy and rambunctious children and teenagers throughout the entire film (it's even worse if it's one of those concert films featuring the Teen Idol of the moment). One of the actors or producers may even do a "surprise" personal appearance before the film starts, taking away any sense of a neutral setting (are you going to tell them their film is awful in person?). Many critics thus will easily not take the bait and stay away in droves for their sanity.

This tends to happen a lot during the months of January, February, August, and September -- the traditional Dump Months where all the movies in which the studio no longer has faith but which it is contractually obligated to release get dumped, leaving the good months for summer blockbusters and Oscar Bait.

This happens with video games as well, though many big-budget ones will have extensive pre-publicity in the form of overwhelmingly positive previews. A positive outlook tends to creep into video game previews because of a lack of things one really can write about a game without playing it. With a movie, you can describe the plot, characters, describe who's working on it, what previous experience they have, and all sorts of things. With a video game, there isn't really the same sort of celebrity gossip. Most of the time, the easily-described things (e.g., plot and characters) are irrelevant to the success of the game. So in order to prevent a preview from just spouting the tropes that are being used in the game, they will fill space by faking enthusiasm.

Television is also an area where this occurs - preview DVDs (formerly tapes) are sent to reviewers so they can write their reviews. Where this does not occur, it is for three reasons:

  • It's rubbish.
  • It's recorded very close to transmission or is a live broadcast.
  • The episode is that dramatic with a massive twist, that the producers don't want to give the game away.

The number of preview DVDs being sent out is also slowly decreasing overall, as studios have finally realised where all those pre-theatrical-release DVD rips of blockbusters floating around the internet actually come from. However, this doesn't mean previews stop being sent altogether, just that fewer reviewers are trusted with copies. TV networks also screen their programs over the internet on password-protected sites for critics, although this can also be discouraging (any television critic can tell you that they'd rather do anything else than watch a program on the infamously glitchy ABC Media Net site).

Compare It's Not Supposed to Win Oscars.

Examples of Not Screened for Critics include:


  • Seltzer and Friedberg's spoofs Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie all fit this trope.
  • The Avengers 1998. The studio even said it was putting the film out without previews not because it was awful, but because the studio wanted the public and press to "discover the film together". Obviously, no one believed this for a moment; both public and press quickly discovered the movie sucked hard.
  • Snakes on a Plane. They may have skipped screening it based on the logic that next to nobody walking into that theater is going to be swayed otherwise by a review, and it was pretty much intentional So Bad It's Good. That and the concept itself is anathema for any professional reviewer, pretty much ensuring that a majority of critics will give it a negative review. Somehow, Snakes on a Plane still managed to get a "Fresh" rating on, even before the "WTF... this is so dumb" word of mouth came in.
    • A possible case of Hoist by His Own Petard. Some critics actually embraced the film, but since they could not spread the word-of-mouth to the uninitiated because of the lack of pre-screening, people on the fence stayed hesitant and Snakes wound up scoring way less at the box office than what the viral buzz indicated.
  • Many Gorn genre flicks fall into this, including the Saw franchise, which notably stayed off Richard Roeper's "Worst Movies of 2007" list specifically because of this and the fact that he didn't want to watch them in his free time.
  • Neither of the Alien vs. Predator films were screened for critics.
  • None of Uwe Boll's films have been screened for critics.
  • The Aeon Flux movie. Peter Chung, creator of the original Aeon Flux TV show, once claimed to have felt "helpless, humiliated, and sad" upon seeing the film adaptation of his work. Apparently, this movie wasn't even screened for him (his sole allowed contribution was a single hour-and-a-half meeting with the people writing/directing it).
  • The Eragon movie.
  • Alfred Hitchcock didn't want any critic to see Psycho, not because of any worry of quality, but because he didn't want the Plot Twist to leak out. Tropes Are Not Bad indeed.
    • And no, that wasn't just his cover story. He actually bought up hundreds of copies of the source novel out of his own pocket, for the same reason.
  • Penny Arcade parodied this when Kevin Smith went on to say that his movie Jersey Girl wasn't "for critics". In response, Gabe and Tycho created Twisp & Catsby, an aristocratic cat and a demon (yes, respectively) who starred in completely nonsensical adventures, concluding the first strip with the panel above. In defense of Mr. Smith, the full quote (which is often forgotten) goes on to say that it wasn't "for critics", it was for his daughter, the person he made the movie for, though the point stands that the target audience of a film does not make it immune from criticism.
    • Ironically, Twisp & Catsby have become huge fan favourites and iconic characters of the comics.
  • The 2008 comedy An American Carol, about a version of a certain well-known leftist filmmaker being taught to appreciate America after being visited by three ghosts, went unscreened by critics, as its creators claimed it was too conservative for them to appreciate/approve of.
    • Leading some critics to still see it and claim that politics aside, it was just bad.
  • Tyler Perry never screens most of his films for critics.
    • Except for his adaptation of For Colored Girls.
  • The 2010 action-comedy Killers.
  • Street Fighter the Legend of Chun Li.
  • G.I. Joe the Rise of Cobra was not screened for critics. They had this to say on the matter:

 "After the chasm we experienced with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen between the response of audiences and critics, we chose to forgo opening-day print and broadcast reviews as a strategy to promote 'G.I. Joe.' We want audiences to define this film."

  • It's more or less standard practice now for studios to not screen most horror movies for critics, unless it's something like Drag Me to Hell.
  • The Omega Code
  • The Wicker Man (2006 version)
  • Bizarrely, the Bratz movie was screened for critics, despite what people expected. The result was what you'd think it was.
  • 2002's The Adventures of Pluto Nash may well have been the genesis of the current trend towards shutting out advance review of particularly heinous film making.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was not screened for critics before its premiere at Cannes. The quality was wildly debated.
  • Recently, Piranha 3-D was not screened to critics in advance. However, it ended up being the best-reviewed movie the week it was released, with a 74% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Resident Evil: Afterlife (which was released in September) was not screened for critics before being released. Considering the average review the franchise gets and the dubious quality of some of the films in the franchise this was probably the only way to get people to see it.
  • Quarantine and Devil, which both had the same director, were not screened for critics, but were met with mixed reviews as opposed to universally negative ones.
  • The Gwyneth Paltrow film Country Strong. Bizarrely enough, it also happened to be an Oscar Bait film.
  • The movie of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
  • The Amityville Horror (2005) wasn't screened for critics. It was featured on Ebert & Roeper in the new "Wagging Finger of Shame" segment, given to movies that weren't available to review.
  • Spy Kids: All The Time in the World.
  • Apollo 18 and Shark Night, both of which opened on the same weekend.
  • Bucky Larson Born To Be A Star, which ended up getting a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Abduction. It was screened to Australian critics though, with said critics roundly trashing it.
  • Dream House.
  • Drive Angry.
  • The 2011 version of The Three Musketeers.
  • Sucker Punch.
  • Season of the Witch.
  • After a "no reviews published until a certain date" embargo was broken, David Fincher mentioned that he wished he had done this on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and plans to do so on future films.
  • The Roberto Benigni version of Pinocchio in the U.S. Miramax's explanation for this (according to the Other Wiki) was that the English-language dubbing for it wasn't completed in time for advance screenings. Critics who saw it gave it vitriolic reviews.
    • The subtitled version (which was given a limited release two months later) was better received though.
  • Ultraviolet
  • Babylon A.D.
  • One For The Money
  • One Missed Call, which ended up getting a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Live Action TV

  • Doctor Who has at times not sent a DVD to reviewers, or omitted closing scenes. One interesting example was "Partners in Crime" from Series 4/Season 30, where the appearance of Rose Tyler was removed from all the preview tapes and casting documents were altered to remove Billie Piper.
    • "The Stolen Earth" is a highly notable "Last Scene Withheld Until Transmission" one: The "regeneration" bit was not on them.
    • Ditto with "Army of Ghosts" and the Daleks.
    • In The End of Time, Part One, the press copy was altered so it ended with the six billion Masters laughing, and not with the Time Lords. Part Two wasn't even shown to the press- the script for the final three scenes wasn't shown to most of the cast.
  • The 2007/8 Writers' Strike meant that UK listing magazines couldn't review some CSI Verse episodes as they hadn't even aired in the US.
  • The producers of Battlestar Galactica Reimagined have been known to omit key scenes from reviewer screenings, to avoid twists leaking out. Most recently, the premiere of season 4.5 was screened with its final scene, where Col. Tigh realizes his deceased wife was a Cylon who he'd known on Earth in a past life, left out.
  • Teen and Children's shows are pretty much never shown to critics, which means unlike other genres, they can often keep a tight hold on any storylines when they choose to keep them secret.
    • Dan Schneider has used this to his benefit on ICarly. He managed to keep secret the cliffhanger ending to iOMG for what had to have been over a year by filming on a closed set with a minimum of cast and crew.

Video Games

  • The video game version of this trope is for companies to not send review copies to publication or web editors, forcing them to dip into their own budgets to obtain a copy of the game to critique. Obviously, this makes the editors even less enthusiastic about reviewing the game. Acclaim Entertainment was notorious for doing this in the early 90s.
  • Vivendi Universal refused to send Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) a copy of their Game Boy Advance game of The Film of the Book of The Cat in the Hat because they "didn't want Seanbaby making fun of it." It didn't work, needless to say. After having to pay for a review copy, Seanbaby was all too pleased to lay into the game and its creators with his most scathing (and hysterical) of reviews.
    • It's also a form of Insult Backfire because Seanbaby's section at the time was called "Seanbaby's Rest of the Crap", with emphasis on "Crap" - it was, at the beginning and end of his run, his job to review the games that were so shitty that they actually merited their own scale because any review of it placed in the section for reviews proper would be "kill it with fire"; so saying "We don't want Seanbaby to make fun of this game" is essentially saying "We're aware of how bad our game is, but are delusional enough to think we can fool people".
  • Activision did not send any review copies of Tony Hawk: Ride prior to release. Instead, a weekend before release, they organized a Family Fun / Review Event, which, due to the obvious attempts at essentially bribing the reviewers, many reviewers such as Gamespot's declined the invitation. They did something similar for Modern Warfare 2, but unlike Ride, Modern Warfare 2 was well received.
  • Games magazine Amiga Power had the frankly odd idea of using the whole percentage scale in their reviews and not just giving a game an 80% score for existing at all. This made them an number of enemies among other magazines and games publishers, who stopped sending them review copies.
  • Final Fantasy XIV did send out copies to critics, but also asked them not to give out reviews until they'd fixed some of the issues they hadn't fixed before releasing it. Naturally, since the game was already on store shelves, most didn't feel like playing along and gave decidedly negative reviews.
  • According to Metro's gaming supplement, Gamecentral, review copies of games often get "lost in the post." They become more wary of a game when this happens, since they are known as being among the more strict game reviewers.
  • Rednar, the public relations firm for Gearbox software, threatened this in light of negative reviews for Duke Nukem Forever. Gearbox promptly fired them.


  • Several car manufacturers have refused to lend the Top Gear team new cars to test. One of the most notable would be the City Rover, which still appeared on the show as James May went to the dealer for a test drive while wearing a hidden camera and microphone. It was, unsurprisingly, considered one of the worst cars they'd ever featured.
    • A high contender would also be the American muscle car special, where the makers refused to loan the show a Dodge Challenger. They got around this obstacle by buying one, and Richard Hammond went on to give it an enthusiastic endorsement.
    • It's alleged that the Dacia Sandero (a central European light SUV-type) was actually canceled for the UK market because Top Gear spent an entire series mocking it regularly. Ironically when he got to test-drive one during the Romanian special, James May loved it.
      • Also ironically, it had to be an abbreviated test because Clarkson and Hammond arranged to have the Sandero smashed by a semi-truck hours after May got it.
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