Hollywood Media Is Excited About A Star Columnist’s Request For Priority Access

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A Hollywood Reporter writer’s email requesting what seems to be preferential treatment becomes the email that is sent across Hollywood as the entertainment media sector is flipped upside down due to the simultaneous writers’ and actors’ strikes.

An email that a well-known awards journalist at The Hollywood Reporter addressed to studios and strategists last week asking for priority access to the top films coming out this year is making waves in the Hollywood media. He warned in the email that there would be repercussions if the studios didn’t cooperate. I respectfully request that you not show any of my fellow awards pundits any films before you show them to me as you prepare the release of your film(s), even if they identify themselves to you as (a) a potential reviewer of it, (b) needing to see the movie in order to participate in decisions about covers, or (c) really anything else. THR’s executive editor for awards, Scott Feinberg,

As it puts us at a competitive disadvantage, particularly at film festivals where every second matters, we feel that doing so is patently unjust to THR, Feinberg wrote. He continued, “It is not unreasonable to ask you to insist that someone is either an awards pundit or a critic/cover editor, but not both, at least during awards season,” expressing his apparent annoyance that editors and critics who double as awards pundits get access to screenings before him, who is primarily an awards pundit. Longtime Hollywood journalist Feinberg is well-known for his interview-based Awards Chatter podcast and the “Feinberg Forecast,” in which he forecasts different entertainment prize races.

He also hinted in the email that there would be consequences for studios that continued to distribute screening invitations widely. “Moving forward, [THR] may take that into consideration during the booking of roundtables, podcasts, and other coverage,” he wrote, alluding to the highly sought-after spots on the outlet’s celebrity-fueled discussion series. Sources who saw the email—which, according to my information, was widely distributed and has since gone much further—found it to be either a flimsy attempt on his part to outwit his rivals or an implicit threat that they needed to take seriously. One senior publicist at a prestigious company adds, “As someone who’s organizing and leading an Oscar campaign this year for a certain title, it just leaves me with a really bad taste in my mouth the choice to screen early “lives with me and it lives with people who are working with filmmakers,” according to the production company. “This culture of prescreening has just clearly gotten a little bit out of control,” they said, “if you have these kinds of emails going around, where people are demanding they see it before their competitors, who are actually their colleagues.”

As it continues to broaden its entertainment news reach, Penske Media Corporation took over THR’s operations in 2020. In addition, the organization is in charge of Deadline, Variety, Rolling Stone, Billboard, and Indiewire. In a statement, a representative for the PMC said that Feinberg “did not in any way mean to imply that he should see films before others, but simply that all awards analysts should see them at the same time and not be given preferential treatment.” The spokesperson added that the email was “inartfully worded,” and Feinberg, a planned to follow up on the studios and strategists to make that point clear. Scott was aware that in certain cases, other awards experts had obtained early access to a movie by feigning interest in reviewing it.

Feinberg’s request relates to this period in Hollywood, when the simultaneous writer’s and actor’s strikes are upending the entertainment media system. Having explicitly mentioned his wish for exclusives “given the relative quiet in the business,” Feinberg really emphasized his willingness to collaborate with movie promoters during what will probably be a very peculiar awards season. The group that represents actors in Hollywood, SAG-AFTRA, has prohibited performers from advertising their work in the media, placing an indefinite ban on everything from cover photos to red carpets to interviews. Meanwhile the entertainment business has come to a complete standstill due to the screenwriters’ strike. The Ankler CEO Janice Min told Vanity Fair last month that “the celebrity factory has shut down.” “If this continues for a while, it will be felt throughout the entire internet.” Trade newspapers like THR and Variety will probably feel it much more because of the loss of advertising that comes with the press blackout, especially around for-your-consideration ads.

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