Over the last several years, I've had the opportunity to attend my share of advance film screenings as media. I've shared my film reviews, but not the experience of attending these sneak peaks.
Some of these screenings have taken place on studio lots in big auditoriums or regular rented theaters and sometimes in small private screening rooms, like the one I was in earlier this week to see Fox Searchlight's psychological thriller Stoker with Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska. The private theater (seen in the photo on the right) was held at the base of an office skyscraper in Midtown. It had several rows of soft, large, rocking chairs. I find it interesting how there's always a couple of critics that voluntarily go straight to the very first row or the last row as a preference. I was told in my undergraduate film class that the best spot to view a movie is almost in the middle of the theater, but just a few rows higher and then in the middle of that row, so that's where I always try to sit.
No food or beverages were allowed at this screening. When held at a regular movie theater, the studio may give a coupon for popcorn and a soda though, but that's rare. Typically, media's bags are checked at the door for any recording devices to prevent bootlegging. Occasionally, someone related to the film will give an intro or they will hold a Q&A after the film, but this time the theater went dark at start time and the film started without any previews.
When I see a film on my own, I like hearing the audience's reactions to see what goes over well and what doesn't, but when you watch a press screener it's often eerily quiet, so when you go to write your review you have to base it solely on your own feelings. This is when I second guess myself. Was what I saw in fact funny? Was it artistic? If I paid to see the film, would I have left with the same opinion? You also never know what you're in for, since there usually isn't much out about the film at that point. I also try and avoid seeing the trailers ahead of time, so I'm fully suprised and am going in without any other information. In fact, I didn't realize Stoker was a thriller, from the movie poster it looked like a quirky independent, which it was, but a lot darker.
My review of Stoker can be read over at ShakeFire.com