If you read Cinematical every day and/or keep close tabs on the morality of our industry you might have seen a big scandal arise over on Hollywood's stalwart trade paper, Variety. Scott Weinberg brought you the news that Variety had reportedly pulled a negative review of the film Iron Cross once the film's director and producer, Joshua Newton, spent $400,000 on advertising banners.
Gawker never could get a response from Variety, but the LA Times did. Variety put Robert Koehler's review of Iron Cross back up, and claimed they had taken it down in order to investigate "factual inaccuracies" after Newton complained. This investigation included Variety's editor Tim Gray actually sitting and watching the film, and deciding that the trade could stand by Koehler's review. Gray declined to give his own opinion on the film to the Times.
But Iron Cross' Newton isn't satisfied. According to the New York Times, Newton has now filed a lawsuit against Variety accusing the paper of "contractual breach, negligence, fraud and deceit, and unfair business practices." He believes he was betrayed by the paper that suggested the film as a potential awards contender and approached him two months later with the advertising package. They formed an "exclusive media partnership" which included print and online ads, 40,000 DVDs, and inclusion in an awards screening series sponsored by the paper. Newton spent an additional $800,000 to finish the film for its brief theatrical run in Los Angeles that would allow it to qualify for the Oscars. The producer claims this partnership and Oscar campaign was undermined when Koehler ran a negative review of the film. He's asking for "general damages, punitive damages, restitution of funds paid and an injunction to prevent Variety from further comment on the movie" but has not specified a monetary amount.
Gawker notes that the inclusion of the film in Variety's screening series had baffled many, but can now be explained by Newton purchasing such a large package.The LA Times and Gray contend that Iron Cross' inclusion in Gray's June Oscar column wasn't anything special. It included all unseen "possibilities," many of which fell flat at awards time, such as Anchor Bay's City Island, Fox Searchlight's Amelia, Miramax's The Boys Are Back and Everybody's Fine, and The Weinstein Company's The Road. Gray denies that Variety's sales department knew anything about what films he was going to write about, and insists they were never told to use his quotes as incentive. "There's a totally complete separation of church and state here. I never tell the ad people anything in advance about what I'm writing."
So, there you have it. $400,000 doesn't buy you a positive review in Variety, but it will buy you a massive awards campaign and a re-review of your film to see if it contains "factual inaccuracies."