Rule #1: How to know when a movie/tv show is doomed, part 1.
As soon as the ads (or the people involved in making the movie--actors, directors, etc.) come out and make a direct comparison to another movie, it's doomed. They have set up expectations that are rarely met. Examples:
"It's the next 'Mystic Pizza'." -- from the box of a movie that did so poorly I can't even remember which one it was.
"This is the kind of villian Shakespeare would have written." Robert Davi, in an interview about his role in the James Bond movie License to Kill.
However, if the ads or people generalize, saying it's got this, this, and this, without making a comparison, the movies/TV shows have done well. Example: "I think you'll be pleasantly surprised." John Lithgow, talking about the new comedy series he was about to do (3rd Rock from the Sun).
Rule #2: How to know when a movie is doomed, part 2.
If you see a "the Making of..." TV special before or just after the release of a movie, the movie enters and exits the theaters quickly. If you see the TV special several weeks after its release, then the movie fares well.
Rule #3: Comedy movies give away their jokes in their commercials.
Most movies have 3 commercials made to advertise them. By the time you have seen all 3 commercials for an upcoming comedy movie, you will have seen all the good parts of the movie.
Rule #4: Watch a movie the week after it is released.
Like the TV industry, the movie industry is so obsessed with having instant hits that otherwise good movies are yanked from theaters if they don't earn several tens of millions of dollars their first weekend. You then have a short time span in which to go see a movie, and if you wait past that second week, it may be gone.
Rule #2 in further depth:
Test case #1: FX Network showed a "behind the scenes" for the movie Monkeybone on 2-24-2001. Let's see how long it stays in the theaters.
3-25-2002: Okay, so I didn't track how long it was in theaters, but it wasn't very long.
Test case #2: Comedy Central shows a "behind the scenes" for the movie
Death to Smoochy on 3-25-2002. The movie opens 4 days from now.
3-26-2002: My search for a movie soundtrack continues. I only want one song off of it, which is some sort of 1970's instrumental song I've heard before but can't think of the name for, and the commercials have that song running in the background.
4-13-2002: Of the 27 movie theaters listed in my paper, 4 of them now have only one showing a day for Death to Smoochy. A fifth theater has three showings a day.
5-4-2002: Smoochy is now only playing once a day at the local $3-a-show movie theater. I consider going to that theater and asking how much it would cost me just to watch the credits so I can find out what that song is called (I'll know it when I see the name).
5-20-2002: Smoochy has died (left the $3-a-show theater) sometime in the last week. I never did find a soundtrack.
Conclusion: Death to Smoochy does fit Rule #2. The movie's rapid demise in theaters may also have been aided by the fact that in it Robin Williams spouts so much profanity that one reviewer commented that it seemed like he was getting paid by the word.
1-1-2003 Update: I finally decided to rent Death to Smoochy just so I could check the credits. So now I can reveal the name of the mystery song and provide a soundtrack listing.
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