chicagocritics1.jpgHere is a new and definitive letter from the Chicago Film Critics Association explaining all about its supposed beef with 20th Century Fox over screening and embargo issues. The end result is that the Los Angeles Times now needs to make some major corrections to the July 20th Calendar article it wrote on the subject. My understanding is that the newspaper was very arrogantly refusing to admit it got anything wrong about the small brouhaha. And the management of the Times wonders why the paper is so disliked. Here’s the letter, which explains everything:

chicagocritics2.jpgMy Fellow Chicago Film Critics:

This will hopefully clear up a lot of the misinformation that has been passed around and reported about the Chicago Film Critics Association’s negotiations with 20th Century Fox.

On July 9, the Chicago Film Critics Association’s Board of Directors passed a resolution to stage an “action of protest” against 20th Century Fox films. This action was not a strike, boycott, quest or “war against Fox,” as it has been described. Rather, our call to action — a temporary freeze on interviews and non-review materials — was designed to open up lines of communication with the studio. The critics wanted a fairer, more inclusive policy to see press screenings earlier, without some critics forced to see a movie the night before its public opening. That prompted the action of protest. We made no secret of this action. As a result, a few critics organizations from around the country contacted the CFCA to voice their support for the action and the negotiations.

On July 12, I had my first telephone conversation with Chris Petrikin, SVP of Fox Corporate Communications, and Breena Camden, EVP of National Publicity and Field Marketing. We shared our views and mutual concerns about press screenings and critics’ reviews. In the days following our initial talk, Mr. Petrikin and Ms. Camden remained open and flexible in our negotiations.

The next day, CFCA board members Erik Childress and Alejandro Riera and I crafted an initial proposal to resolve the screening issue, based on Fox’s concern about film reviews being released before a movie’s opening date. We sent it to Ms. Camden and Mr. Petrikin, who said the studio would be amenable to opening up its earlier press screenings to CFCA members if the CFCA could show good faith in assuring that film review dates would be respected. The CFCA offered to put disciplinary teeth in its Ethics Code to ensure that its members would not release movie reviews early. A preliminary agreement was roughed out and it appeared that our negotiations would be quickly resolved.

logo_latimes.gifThen a report on the negotiations appeared in the LA Times on July 20. It was a report fraught with misleading information. The article incorrectly reported that the CFCA is waging a boycott against movies by Fox and Fox Searchlight, and that other critics organizations had joined the boycott. That never happened. Inside the story, I am properly quoted as saying that an agreement with Fox is imminent.

Since the publication of this report, many people, including other critics, have assumed that the CFCA is indeed boycotting Fox movies (it is NOT) and that Fox has been stonewalling or trying to ban more critics from its screenings. In fact, the opposite has been happening.

On July 20, as a gesture of good faith, Fox invited all members of the CFCA to its upcoming movie The Simpsons, On the same day, the CFCA officially lifted its action of protest to fulfill our part of the bargain. In a letter to the membership, I explained that to continue being invited to early press screenings, Chicago members must agree to abide by the rules and respect the opening review dates of motion pictures. In essence, Fox and the CFCA have exchanged one professional courtesy for another professional courtesy. It is my hope that from now on, critics groups and Hollywood studios can find common ground for an industry-wide agreement on professional conduct that will benefit studios and critics.

Meanwhile, let me repeat: Chicago’s film critics and 20th Century Fox have resolved their screening and embargo issues. The protest is over.

We’re good to go, people.

Dann Gire

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.

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