In the wake of Variety‘s recent decisions to (a) pull a negative Robert Koehler review of a minor film called Iron Cross because of producer threats that might have affected a $400,000 ad buy and (b) lay off chief film critic Todd McCarthy, several pundits (including Roger Ebert) have declared that the legendary trade publication is more or less finished. Or at least that the die is cast toward that end.
But now Variety really seems destined for extinction with Joshua Newton, the producer and director of Iron Cross, telling The Wrap‘s Sharon Waxman that Variety publisher Neil Stiles informed him not long ago that “he planned to cease all reviews this year, in 2010.”
This statement argues with a paragraph in Michael Cieply‘s 3.15 N.Y. Times story about Variety‘s (and The Hollywood Reporter‘s) fortunes, to wit: “At a Tuesday morning meeting, [Variety publisher Neil] Stiles mentioned a plan to package reviews for sale to some of the many mainstream papers that have dropped their critics to save money. It is part of an effort to syndicate material or franchise the Variety name to publications around the world.”
Newton also accuses Variety editor Tim Gray of “lying through his nose” when he told L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein and Gawker “that he removed the Iron Cross review because of concerns it had errors.” (I prefer “lying through his teeth.” You can blow your nose or sniff out a story with it, but you can’t tell a whopper through it.)
It’s a fascinating blunt-spoken q & a. No one’s presuming that Newton’s view is the last word or that Variety doesn’t have a different recollection or viewpoint, but wow…what an implosion. I suppose it’s possible that Newton is completely misquoting Stiles about his alleged intention to zotz all reviews sometime later this year, but a voice is telling me Newton probably didn’t invent this statement out of whole cloth. This is staggering. No McCarthy reviews was one thing, but no reviews at all? That can’t be true. It’s too radical a notion.