Penske Media Corporation clarified on Tuesday an email from The Hollywood Reporter awards columnist Scott Feinberg in which he demanded to see films ahead of his competitors, saying that the writer didn’t really mean to sound threatening.
“Any suggestion of consequences for not providing early viewing access to Scott was not the intent,” a Penske spokesperson said.
But the email, obtained by TheWrap and first surfaced by Vanity Fair, seemed to clearly reflect that THR’s executive editor of awards demanded priority access to the year’s upcoming theatrical releases, demanding arguable preferential treatment even over his colleagues.
It also suggested that if his request wasn’t followed, that THR “may take that into consideration during the booking of roundtables, podcasts and other coverage.”
PMC — which bought The Hollywood Reporter in 2020 and also currently owns Deadline, Variety, Rolling Stone, Billboard and Indiewire, among other publications — issued a statement to Vanity Fair, which they also sent to TheWrap, via a spokesperson. It stated that Feinberg “did not in any way mean to imply that he should see films before others, but just that all awards analysts should see them at the same time and not be given preferential treatment.”
The statement added that the initial email, which has since made the rounds among Hollywood, was “inartfully worded” and that Feinberg planned to follow up with the studios and PR reps to make that clear.
A Penske spokeswoman said: “It was Scott’s understanding that there have been instances where other awards analysts have gotten early access to a film by also claiming to be a reviewer and were able to see films before others. Any suggestion of consequences for not providing early viewing access to Scott was not the intent,”
The initial email stated, “As you plan the rollout of your film(s), I would like to respectfully ask that you not show films to any of my fellow awards pundits before you show them to me, even if that person represents himself or herself to you as (a) a potential reviewer of it, (b) needing to see the film in order to be part of decisions about covers, or (c) really anything else.”
“We feel that doing so is plainly unfair to THR, as it puts us at a competitive disadvantage, especially at film fests, where every second counts,” Feinberg wrote. “It is not unreasonable to ask you to insist that someone is either an awards pundit or a critic/cover editor, but not both, at least during awards season.”
Feinberg didn’t immediately respond to TheWrap’s requests for comment.
In response to Feinberg’s email, TheWrap’s executive editor for awards, Steve Pond, said, “Scott has every right to request equal treatment with his competitors, however inartfully he made that request. But some awards analysts, among them [Deadline awards columnist and chief film critic] Pete Hammond and myself, do in fact review movies. To suggest that we only ‘claim’ to be reviewers or ‘represent’ ourselves as reviewers in order to see movies ahead of time is incorrect and offensive.”
The email, the reaction and now the response from PMC is just one circumstance in an industry wading its way through a near-unprecedented double labor stoppage both in the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. The strikes have left production in flux, with unions forbidding writers and actors from promoting their completed projects for the duration of the strikes.
Considering the extent to which entertainment publications, including TheWrap, can rely on “for your consideration” advertisements and related awards season content for revenue and buzzy articles, it is fair to say that awards-centric journalists like Feinberg are feeling the pinch just that much more.
Feinberg’s email was first shared by Vanity Fair.