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David Poland

By David Poland

Whose Access Is It Anyway?

In my e-mail box, I just found a Forbes Newsletter proclaiming “First Review: War Of The Worlds.”
The author is Variety’s Todd McCarthy. Variety shares ad space on the Forbes page.
And my reaction is shock.
Because Variety is now trading on its industry status, which has allowed it to bully studios in the internet era into at least maintaining parity with internet sites and often into early screenings (they saw WoTW weeks before The New York Times). But it’s no longer just for editorial advantage and prestige. Now it is a direct, undeniable commerce issue.
And I say, “Foul.”
If the studios go down this road publicly – which is to allow to slide by the backdoor deals with the “fan site” AICN – there will be no high ground by which to do business with other outlets. If Variety can use a “First Review” claim (which is not true, btw) to its financial benefit, isn’t it directly damaging to The New York Times not to have that access?
Now, it might be a fluke. Embargo rules were all over the place on this particular movie, worldwide. Toes were stepped on and for one of the first times, a lot of people who don’t usually care complained.
But if it isn’t… is “First Review” is worth more than prestige and attention, but actually financial upside… the spiral will speed up and pirated previews – including test screening reviews – will not only become morally acceptable, but lionized by regular folks in a way they are not already.

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45 Responses to “Whose Access Is It Anyway?”

  1. LesterFreed says:

    It matters for like 30 seconds and I don’t think too many fans even care.

  2. BluStealer says:

    Really the only thing it is good for is Variety’s ego.

  3. teambanzai says:

    If it continues I would think the internet community would throw the gloves off and start posting more prerelease reviews than they already do.

  4. Mark says:

    Who really reads those sites anyway? Other fans? And those fans are seeing these movies anyway no matter what any review says.

  5. don says:

    Nice Dave….you’ve managed to bait Joe AND McWeeny in one posting. As much as I agree with you in what you said, when you do stuff like this, it just makes you seem like there’s sour grapes because you were never in the “first review” loop.
    It’s a no-win situation because someone has to call bullshit on this type of thing and the only real place to do it is on sites like this and MCN. I totally agree that it screwed for studios and “media outlets” to allow those who are on their payroll or can help them financially (or whatever the case may be) get access to films while other, “honest” reviewers are shut out. It’s so shady and “behind the scenes” it’s tough to catch it.

  6. Angelus21 says:

    Dave doesn’t play the favors game obviously and since he is not writing for Variety or sell out like Ain’t it Cool News, he is not going to be first on set and given first reviews. Facts of life.

  7. moviefreek says:

    Wasn’t Dave recently flown to London to visit the set of V for Vendetta?

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’ll say this for McWeeney. As a working screenwriter, Dude is not afraid to bite the hands that could potentially feed him.

  9. Drew says:

    You mean he’ll never have a first review like last year’s TERMINAL review when he called the film “sublime” before anyone else had seen it?
    Or you mean he’ll never have a set visit like his trip to London where he spent a week writing about theater visits while supposedly covering the V FOR VENDETTA set?
    You’re right! He’d never do that!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Ouch. Game, set, match.

  11. Harry Knowles says:

    McWeeny is scum who used my site to peddle his 3rd rate action schlock.

  12. Don says:

    I would demand my money and time back for having to see THE TERMINAL early.

  13. Bess says:

    I’ve read a lot of bullshit about barely visible critics being mad that highly visible critics get to see and review movies early…
    What world do you all live in?
    Of course Variety will be one of the first to get the opportunity to review a “big” movie. Along with Newsweek and Ebert & Roeper and yes, AICN, because a lot of people know who they are…
    What would be the upside of showing a movie early to say, Ray Pride or David Poland?
    Go out on the street and ask someone who either of those people are. Unless they’re in LA or Chicago they probably have no idea and even then I doubt they’d know those names. The studio would be better off showing their movie to Clay Smith for the love of God.
    Variety matters because it reaches a wide audience. Ebert matters. Newsweek matters. Harry matters.
    If you want to start reviewing movies early, here’s what you do: GET A NATIONAL TV SHOW, WRITE FOR A NATIONAL PUBLICATION or WRITE FOR A HIGHLY VISITED WEBSITE…
    Simple enough?

  14. Angelus21 says:

    Why the slagging of the Terminal? That was a good little movie and Tom Hanks has made one bad move in 20 yrs. Ladykillers needs to be forgotten.

  15. David Poland says:

    Actually, I do get early looks at films all the time… and MCN is courted for them all the time… but I don’t play this game of “aw, shucks.”
    And I did do a set visit – one of my 2 or 3 a year – and wrote about my seeking it out months before it happened and was completely open about it when it happened. And when I ran the photos I did – even though they were shot seperately from the official visit – I asked Warner Bros, since I would not have been in London to shoot that stuff if it weren’t for them bringing me in (and me expanding the trip for my own selfish reasons).
    This is a world filled with people inside and influenced and connected and disconnected. I have strong relationships with people I never talk to… good and bad. And there are people who I talk to a lot.
    But the one thing I will tell you is, there are no secrets here. I am not in business with anyone, outside of advertising, which MCN does not solicit outside of Oscar season… and then, the deals are favored nations.
    I do know a lot that I don’t write about. But that is the price of knowing some things. But when something goes off record, it lives off record.
    I’m not working friends for screenwriting gigs or the studios for screenwriting or producing gigs, etc, etc, etc.
    And Bess… if it was that simple, there would be no conversation about it. It’s not.
    And who, exactly, do you think Harry matters to and how many more readers do you think he has than I do? Just curious.

  16. Angelus21 says:

    Dave you really don’t have to defend yourself to a sellout like Drew. Everyone knows hes a phony. I wonder if he used his “reviews”(I use that term very loosely) to get his writing career (again I use that loosely) off the ground. We know you are a legit journo and film lover and that is why most of us come here and only have a passing interest in a rag of a site like AICN.

  17. Bess says:

    I don’t know exact figures and even if your readership is bigger, it’s the perception that counts. Many people “outside” of the industry know who Harry is.
    If I were a Director and somebody said, “Would you like to show your movie to David Poland or Harry Knowles early?” I’d say, “David who?”
    I would guess that everyone here knows or is someone on the “inside” and we all have secrets.
    You seem to fancy yourself and outsider with inside connections. Someone who bucks the system and calls it like it is. But when it comes down to it, we’re all on the inside.
    No, you may not lobby to friends for screenwriting and producing jobs, but is it really any different when you admittedly lobby for set access?
    For a guy with such high “standards,” you’re really ducking the same bar as everybody else.
    Every time I read you, I want to scratch my eyes out because you come across as a holier than everyone jerk who’s pretending to be important and who gets a seriously chapped ass because he’s not actually reached the level of importance that others have.
    Maybe someday you will and I’m honestly rooting for you! But you should take a look at your standards before talking about others.

  18. jeffrey boam's doctor says:

    drew aren’t you becoming a dad any day soon? i would think all round here would understand if you didn’t reply to any of the lowblows here for a few weeks. some things are more impt than movies.
    dave – do you make a good enough living from being a web critic or do you have other gigs going on. Just curious and of course not expecting a detailed reply. I know it took Knowles a few years before he was making enough from the site to kickback. That and selling a couple of AIP one sheets.

  19. joefitz84 says:

    Bess, its pretty obvious you have never read the Hot Button because that was a load of crap. Maybe you should read a few of the past articles and get some knowledge before you act like a blowhard with an agenda.

  20. J-Dub says:

    I remember Bess from somewhere. Not that pleasant either. And if you dont know Poland. Then please try to act surprised by all of that Oscar ads he gets. You might know him, but some bloody marketing people surely do. The only reason anyone knows Knowles or McWeeney boils down to piss people off. You easily learn the names of those who anger you, and remember them. If not, you are a bloody sucker. One last thing; Poland being the only critic to like the Matrix Sequels. If I were the Wachowskis. I would have sent him to England as well. Just as a way to give him props. Not like Poland goes jaunting around like Knowles. Who right now is somewhere besides Austin, TX. The same goes for Eric Vespse. Who gets to travel the friggin globe endlessly it seems.

  21. David Poland says:

    J.B. – Been making a very nice living as a journalist for over a decade, whether on the web or not. I haven’t had to take in laundry since early on and the only outside job I had in the run was running the Miami International Film Festival for a year.
    And Bess, there is no doubt that Harry is far more famous than me… no question. I would never do the things that made him that ripe for stories. For the most part, we’re playing on different tracks, though we are thrown together because we are both on the web.

  22. Mr. Wells says:

    All of you just shut-up and admit that I am God. Bow down before my brilliant and groundbreaking movie reviews.

  23. KamikazeCamel says:

    Does anybody particularly care?

  24. Anonymous says:

    hehehe Drew and Harry’s producing/screenwriting careers remind me of Tori Spelling when she said no one knew who she was when she auditioned for Beverly Hills 90210 (AARON Spelling had NOTHING to do with her getting the part). So I wonder what you eventually get for hiring Drew and Harry. Good coverage, non?
    And Bess, go read Ray Pride’s interview with Ken Kwapis. I know you’re a big Access Hollywood fan, but I have confidence in you. I actually want to see Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants now.

  25. sky_capitan says:

    I agree with Anonymous. Verbatim.

  26. J-Dub says:

    Bowing down to Jeff Wells? NEVER!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, it really bothers me how these “embargo rules” are ignored by the studios when it comes to AICN and yet they’re continually invited to screenings/set visits, etc.
    What annoys me more is the deal that Variety seems to have with studios about having exclusives on news. I actually broke a big story earlier this year after talking to a producer during a set visit and I was told by the studio to take it down, because they had an embargo on the set visit. Three days later the story was on Variety with no credit to where the news came from (because it had been taken down).
    I just wonder when Variety stops being a “news outlet” and just becomes a place for studios to shill their latest projects…kinda like AICN.

  28. bicycle bob says:

    comparing mcn to aicn is like comparing apples and oranges. one is a legit site. the other is one out for personal gain and to further the other careers of its writers.

  29. Terence D says:

    I don’t think anyone takes those AICN people seriously and they get used more than anything. Apparently they all read MCN and this blog because Drew McWeeny posts and attacks Dave very quickly.

  30. BluStealer says:

    They just link up any cool news they get anyway. They’re slow and lazy. I think they just posted that Christian Bale was cast as Batman.

  31. LesterFreed says:

    Unless you kiss that fat ass’ big red ass you won’t get blurbs and raves. And if you don’t pay them you won’t even get a notice. They blackmail the studios to give them goodies, money, and jobs.

  32. moviefreek says:

    sorry, but this site would not exist if there had been no AICN. say what you will about Harry and co., those guys did something with that site that has gone on to be wildly imitated and duplicated, yet they remain the most popular of all.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

  34. LesterFreed says:

    I think moviefreek is Drew Mcweeny. And get them facts straight. Dave was working way before Harry started eating 8 meals a day. Lets not give AICN all the credit for the internet. They ain’t Al Gore.

  35. Terence D says:

    Go look at that site now. It has no life. All their big scoops are just links to other sites. Their writers? They write one article a month. It may have been one of the first but now its lagging. Maybe its because those guys got what they wanted out of it. They’re not real journalists. They have an agenda and they took advantage of it.

  36. MF says:

    Dave, do you a solid number for WOTW production budget?
    Published numbers from O’Neil and Friedman ranged from $182 to $225 million, supposedly from an inside source at the premier.
    Others (BOM, Variety) are saying $125 to $135 million.
    But I’m not sure if I can trust Variety outright anymore.

  37. bicycle bob says:

    i read over 250mill. after marketing and the rest of the lot added in

  38. Mark says:

    You guys better watch out in ripping the AICN crew. They have hit squads of nerds out there ready to pounce. Harry controls them like hes Jabba the Hut.

  39. joefitz84 says:

    Listening to people defend AICN hurts my ears. Why can’t you just admit they’re a bunch of for profit phonies? Is that so damn hard??

  40. Angelus21 says:

    “That site is a complete bore”
    –90% of film fans who go online for news

  41. David Poland says:

    I have no idea what the real number on War of The Worlds is… my guess would be higher than the studios admited to the trades and less than O’Neil & Freidman, who seem to be carrying their anger over screening policies and premiere treatment into print.
    World publicity costs have been much higher than usual. Included in P&A, figure as much as $100 million there. If I were to estimated production… $150m… but I wouldn’t swear to it and I sure wouldn’t bank on gossip.

  42. bicycle bob says:

    friedman thinks it was almost 300mill.

  43. West says:

    It cost less to make than Batman Begins and the Island — at least that’s what I’ve heard. Spielberg seems to get more out of money than most.
    BTW, has anyone ever read a script by McWeeney? Good? Bad? I find it hard to believe that multiple studios would give him writing gigs without him having some talent. I’m sure I could be wrong though.

  44. BluStealer says:

    McWeeny writes bad, terrible B movie action flicks. Those are rough reads for anyone to sit thru.

  45. joefitz84 says:

    He has written a few but nothing that has been produced yet. Many in the know think he gets jobs not from his writing talent but because of his relationship with the site. That is why he gets projects like Mortal Kombat 4 and stuff like that. Throw aways.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

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