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[[quoteright:259:[[Webcomic/PennyArcade http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/PennyArcade_critics_cropped_6244.png]]]]

->''"We'd love to tell you more about this one, but it doesn't screen for critics until later in the week, which is never a good sign. "''
-->-- ''RottenTomatoes'', on the [[http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/hansel_and_gretel_witch_hunters/news/1926713/parental_guidance_hansel_and_gretel_witch_hunters/ quality]] of ''Film/HanselAndGretelWitchHunters''

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. Or you check a site like RottenTomatoes or Metacritic to get both their combined metascore and the reviews that come with it.

Instead of a review, you read a notice stating that the film was "not screened for critics." The review compilation sites also have very few reviews and can't compute a review score from it. 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 preview screening... with a bunch of contest winners, so that instead of being able to make notes and review a film in a quiet theater or purpose-built screening room, the critic has 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 it only because they didn't have to pay to see it. Films aimed at kids and teenagers might get a rowdy and rambunctious audience throughout the entire film (worse if it features the TeenIdol of the moment). One of the actors or producers may even make a "[[DullSurprise surprise]]" personal appearance, 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 and late August -- the traditional DumpMonths 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 [[SummerBlockbuster summer blockbusters]] and OscarBait.

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.

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 [[WhamEpisode 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}} [=MediaNet=] site).

Compare ItsNotSupposedToWinOscars.

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!!Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Film]]
* SeltzerAndFriedberg's spoofs ''Date Movie'', ''Epic Movie'', ''Meet the Spartans'' and ''Disaster Movie'' all fit this trope.
* ''Film/TheAvengers1998''. 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.
* ''Film/SnakesOnAPlane''. They may have skipped screening it based on the logic that next to nobody walking into that theater is going to be swayed by a review, and it was pretty much intentional SoBadItsGood. That and [[BMovie 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 Rottentomatoes.com, even before the "WTF... this is so dumb" word of mouth came in. A possible case of HoistByHisOwnPetard. 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 ''AlienVsPredator'' films were screened for critics.
* None of Uwe Boll's films have been screened for critics.
* Neither of the ''Film/AtlasShrugged'' movies were screened for critics.
* The ''Film/AeonFlux'' movie. Peter Chung, creator of the original ''WesternAnimation/AeonFlux'' 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 ''Film/{{Eragon}}'' movie.
* Creator/AlfredHitchcock didn't want any critic to see ''Film/{{Psycho}}'', not because of any worry of quality, but because he didn't want the Plot Twist to leak out. TropesAreNotBad, 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.
* ''Webcomic/PennyArcade'' [[http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/24/ parodied this]] when Creator/KevinSmith went on to say that his movie ''Film/JerseyGirl'' wasn't "for critics". In response, Gabe and Tycho created ''Twisp & Catsby'', an aristocratic cat and a demon (yes, respectively) who starred in [[DadaComics completely nonsensical adventures]], concluding the first strip with the panel above. 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 ([[SarcasmMode apparently he gave it a wide theatrical release by ''accident'']]). Ironically, Twisp & Catsby have become [[EnsembleDarkhorse huge fan favorites]] and iconic characters of the comics.
* The 2008 comedy ''Film/AnAmericanCarol'', about a [[StrawmanPolitical version]] of [[Creator/MichaelMoore 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''.
* Creator/TylerPerry never screens most of his films for critics. Except for his adaptation of ''Theatre/ForColoredGirls''.
* The 2010 action-comedy ''{{Killers}}''.
* ''Film/StreetFighterTheLegendOfChunLi''.
* ''Film/GIJoeTheRiseOfCobra'' was not screened for critics. They had this to say on the matter:
-->"After [[CriticalDissonance the chasm we experienced]] with ''Film/TransformersRevengeOfTheFallen'' 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 ''Film/DragMeToHell''. Studios believe critics just universally hate horror films, [[TruthInTelevision and with good cause]].
* ''Film/TheOmegaCode''
* ''Film/TheWickerMan'' (2006 version)
* Bizarrely, the ''Film/{{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 filmmaking.
* ''Film/IndianaJonesAndTheKingdomOfTheCrystalSkull'' was not screened for critics before its premiere at Cannes. The quality was [[ContestedSequel wildly debated]].
* Recently, ''{{Piranha 3D}}'' was not screened to critics in advance. However, it ended up being the [[OverlyNarrowSuperlative best-reviewed movie the week it was released]], with a 74% on Rotten Tomatoes.
* The 2011 "comedy" film ''Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star'' was never screened for critics because everybody knew it was going to be a catastrophe. Swardson himself [[CreatorBacklash would disown the negative reception]].
* ''Film/ResidentEvilAfterlife'' was not screened for critics before being released.
* ''Film/{{Quarantine}}'' and ''Film/{{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 ''Film/CountryStrong''. Bizarrely enough, it also happened to be an OscarBait film.
* The movie of ''StarWarsTheCloneWars''.
* ''Film/TheAmityvilleHorror'' (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.
* ''SpyKids: All The Time in the World''.
* ''Film/{{Apollo 18}}'' and ''SharkNight'', both of which opened on the same weekend.
* ''{{Abduction}}''. It was screened to Australian critics though, with said critics roundly trashing it.
* ''[[Film/PromNight2008 Prom Night]]'' (2008)
* ''Film/DreamHouse''.
* ''Film/DriveAngry''.
* The 2011 version of ''[[Film/TheThreeMusketeers2011 The Three Musketeers]]''.
* ''Film/SuckerPunch''.
* ''Film/SeasonOfTheWitch''.
* After a "no reviews published until a certain date" embargo was broken, Creator/DavidFincher mentioned that he wished he had done this on ''TheGirlWithTheDragonTattoo'' and plans to do so on future films.
* The Roberto Benigni version of ''Film/{{Pinocchio}}'' (2002) 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.
* ''Film/{{Ultraviolet}}''
* ''Film/{{Immortals}}''
* ''Film/BabylonAD''
* ''Film/TheDarkestHour''
* ''Film/OneForTheMoney''
* ''Film/{{Gone}}''
* ''Film/OneMissedCall'', which ended up getting a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
* ''Film/GhostRiderSpiritOfVengeance''
* Political documentaries aimed towards right-wing audiences (''The Undefeated'', ''I Want Your Money'', ''2016: Obama's America'') tend not to be screened to critics, and if they are screened in advance, usually to small and controlled settings such as a church auditorium or a bought-out theater. The filmmakers or production companies likely do this for similar reasons that ''An American Carol'' wasn't.
** The vast majority of left and right-wing documentaries are never screened for critics simply because they tend to have no studio backing, which keeps them out of the larger theater chains and off the radar of mainstream critics to begin with
* ''Film/ChernobylDiaries''
* ''Film/TheApparition''
* ''Film/HouseAtTheEndOfTheStreet''
* ''Film/SilentHillRevelation3D''
* ''Film/TexasChainsaw3D''
* Neither of the ''Film/AHauntedHouse'' films were screened for critics.
* ''Film/HanselAndGretelWitchHunters''
* ''Film/{{Movie 43}}''
* ''WesternAnimation/EscapeFromPlanetEarth''
* ''Film/DarkSkies''
* ''[[Film/TheLastExorcism The Last Exorcism Part II]]''
* ''[[Film/ScaryMovie Scary Movie 5]]''
* ''Film/PremiumRush'' was given this treatment, only to have the film company discover that the critics largely ''liked'' it upon release (RottenTomatoes score of 76%, Certified Fresh). Unfortunately, by then it was too late to take advantage of that and the film became an AcclaimedFlop.
* ''[[Film/SupermanIVTheQuestForPeace Superman IV]]'' was not screened for critics in New York City, and holds a reputation for one of the worst movies in both the series and the genre. It didn't help that one of the film's stars, JonCryer, said that the film wasn't finished.
* ''Film/{{RIPD}}''
* ''Film/TheLegendOfHercules''
* ''Film/IFrankenstein''
* ''Film/VampireAcademy''
* ''Film/HighlanderEndgame''
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/DoctorWho'' has at times not sent a DVD to reviewers, or omitted closing scenes. One interesting example was "[[Recap/DoctorWhoNSS4E1PartnersInCrime Partners in Crime]]", where the appearance of [[spoiler: Rose Tyler]] was removed from all the preview tapes and casting documents were altered to remove [[spoiler:BilliePiper]].
** "[[Recap/DoctorWhoNSS4E12TheStolenEarth The Stolen Earth]]" is a highly notable "Last Scene Withheld Until Transmission" one: [[spoiler: The "regeneration" bit was not on them]].
** The same happened with "[[Recap/DoctorWhoNSS2E12ArmyOfGhosts Army of Ghosts]]" and [[spoiler:the Daleks]]. The OnTheNext [[TrailersAlwaysSpoil trailer did spoil it]] via a special effects shot, however.
** In ''[[Recap/DoctorWhoNSS4E17E18TheEndOfTime The End of Time]]'', Part One, the press copy was altered so it ended with [[spoiler:the six billion Masters laughing]], and not with [[spoiler: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.
** To quote the on-screen text on its not-previewed final scene, preview tapes of "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS33E13TheNameOfTheDoctor The Name of the Doctor]]" were not "[[spoiler:Introducing Creator/JohnHurt as the Doctor]]".
* The 2007/8 Writers' Strike meant that UK listing magazines couldn't review some CSIVerse episodes as they hadn't even aired in the US.
* The producers of ''Series/BattlestarGalacticaReimagined'' 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 [[spoiler: 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.
* Creator/DanSchneider 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.
* Several car manufacturers have refused to lend the ''Series/TopGear'' 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 ''TopGear'' 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 [[spoiler: smashed by a semi-truck]] hours after May got it.
** On one of the show's road trip specials, Bentley pulled their Mulsanne out at the last minute when they decided that the special's theme ("Ideal luxury cars for the leading lights of Albanian organized crime") was loaded with UnfortunateImplications. Since buying (and insuring) a Bentley of their own was well outside the budget, instead the part of the Bentley Mulsanne was played by an ''extremely'' used Yugo. This led to constant criticism from all three presenters about what a shoddy product Bentley is putting out these days.
** In a subversion, despite not only refusing to provide cars to the show, but also banning James May from entering the company premises, [[http://www.bristolcars.co.uk/ Bristol Cars]] are quite highly praised by the presenters even though it is far from what they normally prefer in a car.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Videogames]]
* The video game version of this 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. AcclaimEntertainment was notorious for doing this in the early '90s.
* Vivendi Universal refused to send ''Magazine/ElectronicGamingMonthly'' (EGM) a copy of their GameBoyAdvance [[TheProblemWithLicensedGames game of]] TheFilmOfTheBook of ''Film/TheCatInTheHat'' 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 [[http://www.seanbaby.com/nes/issue176.htm most scathing reviews]]. It's also a form of InsultBackfire 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".
* Creator/{{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 [[http://www.gamespot.com/news/6240528.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=picks&tag=picks;story;5 [=GameSpot=]'s]] declined the invitation. They did something similar for ''ModernWarfare2'', but unlike ''Ride'', ''Modern Warfare 2'' was well received. It really didn't help that ''Ride'' was controlled by a clumsy skateboard peripheral which was savaged by most reviewers and buyers. The game now goes for a 75% discount of its original $120 sticker price in bargain bins everywhere.
** ''Webcomic/PennyArcade'' had fun with this one, too, when Tony claimed that everyone who said bad things about ''Ride'' decided they hated it before they even bought it. [[http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/12/14/ Tycho]] [[SarcasmMode totally agreed that people tend to spend $120 on things they think they'll hate]].
* Games magazine ''Magazine/AmigaPower'' had the frankly odd idea of using the whole percentage scale in their reviews and [[FourPointScale not just giving a game an 80% score for existing at all]]. This made them a number of enemies among other magazines and game publishers, who stopped sending them review copies.
* Square Enix did send out copies of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIV'' to critics, but also asked them not to give out their reviews until they'd fixed some of the bugs 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 Creator/GearboxSoftware, threatened this in light of negative reviews for ''VideoGame/DukeNukemForever''. [[LaserGuidedKarma Gearbox promptly fired them]].
* While Seven45 Studios did send copies of ''VideoGame/PowerGigRiseOfTheSixString'' as well as their touted [=SixString=] guitar peripheral out for review, they did not send their [=AirStrike=] drum peripheral to reviewers. The few who bought their own [=AirStrike=] to review noted that the peripheral looks nothing like a drum kit, and its operation was very finicky at best to completely nonfunctional at worst due to a complete lack of tactile feedback; the player ''had'' to use the "special" drumsticks that came with the peripheral and ''hold them in a specific way'' in order for the unit to register a "hit" on a "drumhead".
* There were no review copies sent out for ''RideToHellRetribution'', for reasons that became obvious when the game finally released and was universally panned by critics.
[[/folder]]
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