Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Standoff

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Standoff

Article excerpt

Columbia Studios threatened to make itself off-limits to all Los Angeles Times reporters and editors unless the newspaper barred a free-lance contributor from covering the movie company.

However, the Times adamantly refused to punish the writer, Jeffrey Wells, and stood by his story about a movie screening that the studio denies occurred.

Times Sunday Calendar executive editor John Lindsay last week said he was unaware of any restrictions Columbia placed on Wells or any other Times writer.

Studio officials were enraged by a Times article reporting a preview screening of Arnold Schwarzenegger's film Last Action Hero. The studio claims it never took place.

The story by Wells, who writes regularly fog the Times entertainment section, said the audience reaction was generally negative. He included quotes from unidentified persons who said they attended the screening at a Pasadena theater. Some of them expressed disappointment with the movie.

The writer said no one would speak for attribution because "research officials" instructed them not to share their impressions of the film with the media.

Wells' article also carried denials by Columbia officials that the screening ever happened. Barry Josephson, the studio's vice president of production, was quoted as saying, "It never took place. The movie is in pieces, being dubbed. You're way off, I can assure you."

Wells quoted Columbia publicity vice president Mark Gill as stating, "It absolutely never happened."

Wells' story also observed of the screening, "It's always possible that this whole thing could be a hoax, that all these unrelated sources could be a part of a conspiracy to hoodwink the press."

Gill subsequently wrote a fiery protest letter to Lindsay. The letter apparently was leaked to the New York Times' Los Angeles correspondent, Bernard Weinraub, who wrote about the dispute June 17.

Gill refused to release a copy of the letter to E&P but said the portions of it quoted in the New York Times were accurate. The Columbia Studios publicity chief refused to comment on Lindsay's statement or any other aspect of the dispute.

Lindsay was informed in the letter that the Los Angeles Times would be "out of business" with Columbia unless Wells was removed from any coverage of the motion picture company by June 21. …

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