After almost exactly a month in theaters, Kevin Smith's Cop Out has made $42.7 million at the box office, making it the highest grossing film directed by the sometime-indie icon, by a substantial margin. Meanwhile, the Bruce Willis/Tracy Morgan cop-com was a total strikeout with critics, netting just 19% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes–meaning that it appealed to roughly half the critics who gave a pass to Smith's previous noted bomb, Jersey Girl. (Here's where I should probably note that I'm one of the few critics who liked Cop Out.)
Now Smith has done the math and decided that paying customers are better suited to judging quality than professional critics, who generally see movies before their release, for free. If his Twitter output of today and yesterday are any indication, he's going to do something about it.
Smith's Twitter tear seems to have started yesterday, when he noted inaccuracies in a couple of stories about the greenlighting of his long-discussed horror film, Red State. Then, in response to a fan's question, Smith confirmed that Cop Out's gross helped push the controversial State into go territory: “Some folks don't wanna hear that, but yes: #CopOut got us to RED STATE.” From there, over the course of a full day and many @ replies, he went on to accuse the current press screening system of being Orwellian, and indicated that from now on, if critics want to review his movies, they'll have to pay to see them. Here's an edited version of where he went from there:
Like, why am I giving an arbitrary 500 people power over what I do at all, let alone for free? Next flick, I'd rather pick 500 randoms from Twitter feed & let THEM see it for free in advance, then post THEIR opinions, good AND bad. Same difference. Why's their opinion more valid? It's a backwards system. People are free to talk shit about ANY of my flicks, so long as they paid to see it. Fuck this AnimalFarm bullshit.
@BenHeckenkamp [wrote], “guess Kev slammed film critics on Twitter. My hero” Hardly a slam; pointed out what a dopey, embarrassing bloodsport the current incarnation of most film “criticism” is & only a dumb system continues showing them flicks free. #PayLikeEveryoneElse
But once again, some cats're out of sorts because they might have to pay to see a flick. So they make it about “Fuck you, make good movies.” My point: if I'm gonna show it to 500 arbitrary people for free, I'd rather show it to 500 arbitrary people off Twitter. What's the diff? I don't fetishize my OWN profession or put it on a pedestal; why the fuck am I fetishizing critics? I'm not 24 anymore. I've got enough perspective/experience to make an educated call. And after watching the ridiculousness of “critics” “reviewing” #CopOut, I dunno…
“Not just any shlub off Twitter can do it!” I say “Yes, they can.” The same people who democratized writing about movies by being rank amateurs themselves when they started now poo-poo the idea of letting people from Twitter take their gig.
Just my observation based on 15yrs of doing this and a decision to change the way I approach it from now on. Not trying to burn it all down; I just feel, from now on, I'll be going another way. The people who're criticizing me the loudest are easily 10, 15 yrs my junior with less experience writing about film than I have making 'em.
I've got longevity on my side now. I've been doing this since 93: so 17 years. I'm a veteran of the film biz. And as a veteran – not just some spectator with an opinion – I think I know what's better for me & my career than total strangers whose Google-able history proves they've NEVER had my best interests at heart. So I'm gonna listen to THOSE people? Nyet. Listening to me, not them, has gotten me THIS far.
Presumably, you can follow Smith's further arguments under his specially-created hashtag: #FuckTheseBourgeoisFreeMoviePigs. Predictably, some of the many film writers who follow Smith are none too pleased at this outburst. “If you really think what you do is beyond criticism, fine,” tweeted Drew McWeeny of HitFix.com. “But it's not. No filmmaker's work is.” It was a class issue for freelancer Ryan Stewart: “I like that @thatkevinsmith, a multi-millionaire, is obsessing on the one privilege of people who otherwise barely make enough to pay taxes.” Finally, Cinematical's Eric D. Snider used Smith's own argument against him: “I don't care what @thatkevinsmith thinks about movie reviews unless he paid to read them.”