Believe it or not, 20th Century Fox suits have decided that a reaction story I ran yesterday — i.e., the one about Radar‘s Alan K. Raymond seemingly being wrong about a threatened Chicago Film Critics Association editorial boycott of Fox films (except for reviews) because I’d been told that the matter had been put to bed — crossed some kind of line, resulting in their telling me a couple of hours ago that they’re out of business with Hollywood Elsewhere.
I wasn’t even going to mention the CFCA situation until Raymond’s piece came along. I spoke to Fox publicity about this matter last week and exchanged a series of friendly, no-big-deal e-mails. There really wasn’t much of a story, but I felt I’d throw my two cents in when Raymond filed. My little piece was fair, honest, factual (as far as I knew) and reasoned. It was written calmly, which is more than you can say about Fox’s response to it. Emotions are clearly running high over there.
I simply sought to clarify and update an article that I understood to be at least somewhat inaccurate. To try and clear the air….you know? I even included a suggestion that Fox should “isolate those online journalists who have behaved fairly and honorably” should be given the courtesy of earlier screenings. Constructive, no? I then added a final truthful statement, which is that “my understanding is that this approach is being looked at with a degree of receptivity.”
Fox’s irate reaction apparently came from my including a belief (one backed up by a rudimentary understanding of how Fox marketing and publicity is structurally run) that Fox’s exec vp publicity Breena Camden had passed along and/or instituted Fox’s “tough” and restrictive screening policies regarding online reviewers and feature writers (i.e., the source of the CFCA’s frustration), and my calling these changes “very sweeping and bludgeon-y.”
By being “tough” about this issue, which is driven by concern about early reviews, “no one in upper management can say [Camden] is not taking strong action,” I wrote. Forgive me, but my understanding of corporate culture is that employees are occasionally obliged to demonstrate to those above them that they are doing their job in some sort of assertive, take-charge way (as opposed to being a jellyfish and just going with the corporate flow). Saying no or “wait until later” to certain online reviewers and feature writers — whether Camden decided this policy herself or passed along a high-up order — and restricting L.A. onliners and other media people to a night-before screening of The Simpsons Movie is clearly a demon- stration of willfulness.
I’ve pushed things in the past. I’ve been nervy and provocative and thown grenades. But yesterday’s piece was nothing. It was a waltz, a cup of tea…a 2.5 on a scale of 10 in terms of controversy. Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a couple of steps back and chill down, which is what I’m going to do. I’m not going to suggest this policy to others. They can make their own moves.