Weinstein, HFPA, SAG reiterate protests against ban

HOLLYWOOD — After an intense month of announcements, arguments and amendments, one weary studio exec sighed to Variety, “What more is there to say about screeners?”

Apparently, plenty.

Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, always a major figure in awards campaigns, broke his silence on the issue last week, calling on the MPAA and the studios to reconsider their position that MPAA signatories can send screeners only to voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Encouraged by his fellow members in the Independent Working Group (a coalition of execs at the studio-owned arthouse units), Weinstein wrote an open letter printed in the Oct. 31 Daily Variety.

“We are deeply concerned that SAG, BAFTA, the critics across the country and the Hollywood Foreign Press are still cut out of the process,” he wrote. He and his fellow execs urged the MPAA and the studios to “address the future” to ensure that technology is in place “so that screeners can be sent in subsequent years.”

Meanwhile, orgs such as the HFPA and SAG reiterated their protests against the cutoff, while the Producers Guild added its voice against the plan.

And a delegation of journalists, including the heads of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the National Society of Film Critics, will meet with Jack Valenti on Nov. 6 in an attempt to negotiate a further shift in the screener ruling.

A week after the Oct. 23 Acad-only announcement, many studios still hadn’t decided which pics to send out. Among the titles that will be shipped are DreamWorks’ “House of Sand & Fog,” Fox’s “Master & Commander,” Miramax’s “Cold Mountain,” and Focus’s “Lost in Translation,” but other studios are still weighing options.

Many see the cutback on screeners as an affront, some label it an ongoing experiment, and others view it as a “market correction.”

One studio exec says, “That’s the way the screening phenomenon started — sending out just a few films to Academy members.” Then, she adds, studios began to send out more titles to more organizations. The cutback, she says, “is an opportunity to not send vanity screeners. It was getting out of hand.”

She predicted an all-out ban next year.

Next year? There’s still plenty to say this year.

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