This week on their weekly movie industry chat show, Sunday Morning Shootout, Variety editor Peter Bart and Hollywood producer Peter Guber debated the fact that smaller specialty films are getting the majority of critics and awards attention, at the expense of big Hollywood movies. Bart said that critics and Academy voters are out of touch with American moviegoers when they honor movies that mass audiences haven’t seen and ignore “the big entertaining pictures” like “Wedding Crashers.” He appealed to voters saying that the Academy is “too conscious of reinforcing important pictures” and that instead they should “recognize the great craftsmen.”
Guber countered that smaller movies are the “acts of passion, they are forged with resistance, they are hard to get made,” then challenged Bart asking whether his stance is fueled by Variety’s need to secure big money awards season ads from the studios. But Bart differed saying that his paper makes “far more money” from the small movies advertising in Variety than from the big studios.
I find it hard to believe that Variety makes less money from awards ads for big studio movies than it does for ads touting small films. But his defense of a creatively declining Hollywood studio system that increasingly relies on remakes and “tentpole pictures” rather than investing in cinematic artistry and emerging talent is hardly shocking I suppose. To deny, though, that it is driven by his position as the editorial head of Hollywood’s leading trade paper is disingenuous.