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Crix nix kudos to pan screener ban

Valenti decision under siege by L.A. org

This article was updated at 5:34 p.m.

Making its strongest possible statement on the issue currently embroiling the Hollywood community, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. has decided not to give its annual awards this year unless the Motion Picture Assn. of America drops its ban on screeners.

At a regularly scheduled meeting Saturday, the 3-decade-old group, which, like numerous other orgs, had already issued a condemnation of the MPAA’s edict preventing member companies from sending out DVDs and videos of the year’s releases for awards consideration, members of LAFCA decided that eliminating its awards for 2003 was the clearest way they could show their dismay over the inequities of the industry policy.

The association’s statement reads in full:

“Whereas, the members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. are committed in our annual awards process to a fair and unbiased evaluation of all films theatrically screened in Los Angeles during the year, whatever their budget or production source;

“Whereas, the ban on screeners seriously inhibits our ability to work as professionals and compromises the integrity and fairness of the evaluative process;

“Therefore, be it resolved that unless there is a timely rescinding of the ban on screeners, LAFCA, with great reluctance, is compelled to cancel this year’s voting on awards.”

Final part of the statement leaves open the possibility of proceeding with its awards if the MPAA backs off its position not to permit the major distributors or their specialty arms from providing screeners. In recent days, rumors have circulated about possible compromises, but no concrete developments seemed to be taking shape over the weekend.

Veteran LAFCA members well remember the days before screeners when all films had to be caught at private screenings or in theaters, but 30%-40% more films are released every year now than was the case about 15 years ago. Vote was taken in full recognition that distribs are in no way obligated, or expected, to send out screeners, as they usually don’t for their year-end blockbusters. But the strong feeling was that the ban is grossly unfair to those who want or need to send out screeners and makes it all but impossible for working critics to do their job in a professional manner by seeing everything they feel the need to catch.

Variety’s chief film critic Todd McCarthy is a member of LAFCA.

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