A few concerned readers wondered whether my column “I Was a Junket Whore,” in which I discussed the wasteful and elaborate means by which movie studios secure fluffy news coverage, would have any repercussions for me. I figured the worst that could happen is I wouldn’t get invited to any more publicity junkets (where you interview the cast and director), which is fine, because I wouldn’t want to go anyway.
But no! Paramount Pictures has gone a step further. They have barred me from all Paramount press screenings. And Allied Advertising, the Seattle branch of which handles Paramount screenings in my area, has decided (no doubt under pressure from Paramount) to ban me from screenings for the other studios it represents, too.
Now, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The studios affected are Paramount, Weinstein Co., Dimension and Miramax. The bigger ones — Warner Bros., Universal, 20th Century Fox, etc. — are handled by different P.R. agencies in Seattle and Portland, so they’re not involved. For the studios that are affected, it means that while in the past I’ve been able to go to advance screenings and run my reviews on opening day, now I may not be able to see the films until they open, meaning my reviews may be a day or two late. But again, it’s not that many movies that will actually be affected.
It’s amusing that Paramount’s response to my airing their dirty laundry is to ban me from their screenings. Has my reliability or professionalism as a film critic been called into question? No; they just don’t like that I made fun of their junket system, the inner workings of which are apparently some kind of secret. In my conversation with the Seattle publicist — who I like and who was just reporting what she’d been told — there was no mention that I had broken a specific rule or violated any contract. Paramount had never said, “Don’t write articles making fun of our junkets.” So banning me from screenings is entirely retributive: We’re mad at you, and this is how we’re going to punish you.
After “World Trade Center” (which was the focus of the junket I attended), Paramount’s next release is “Jackass: Number Two,” the further adventures of Johnny Knoxville and his friends stapling things to themselves while wearing jock straps. So you can see why Paramount would want people to take the studio seriously.
UPDATE: I had suspected this, but now I have it confirmed: Paramount wants me to remove the article from my site — but even if I do, I still won’t be invited to screenings. But they want me to take it down anyway. Why on earth would I remove the article if doing so would benefit me in no way whatsoever? That question seems to have evaded them. (I probably wouldn’t do it anyway, but if removing it would get me reinstated, I would at least think about it for a few minutes before saying no.)