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Ebert and Roeper Give Two Thumbs Down to Chicago Film Critics Cancellation

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Nov 10, 2003 | 12:13pm EST

Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper, two of the most well known members of the Chicago Film Critics Assn., have filed their review of the organization's unanimous decision to cancel its annual awards--and they're giving it two very definite thumbs down.

While the on-air reviewers, who did not participate in last week's vote, expressed their disagreement with the Motion Picture Association of America's ban on screeners for critics, they told Variety that the cancellation of the awards would punish the films rather than the MPAA.

"I don't believe in punishing a good film because of studio policies," Ebert said. "Of course the Valenti edict itself punishes good films, but in this case I don't see the wisdom of fighting fire with fire."

The "Valenti edict" refers to a decision made by the studios, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and MPAA president Jack Valenti to limit the distribution of awards screeners to Academy members, excluding critics' groups and craft guilds like the Screen Actors Guild and the writers and directors guilds.

The L.A. Film Critics Assn., which canceled its awards last month in protest, is currently negotiating with Valenti to extend the screener mailing to critics and guilds. Valenti will present the counterproposal to the studios; a response is expected early this week.

Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter says, studios are getting creative.

The Academy has agreed to allow Fox Searchlight Pictures to provide complimentary screening tickets to its Oscar contender In America to Academy members, the British Academy of Film & Television Arts, the Producers Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild Nominating Committee, the Writers Guild of America, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and critics groups. The tickets will be valid at theaters across the country, and Fox will be compensating those venues that accept them. But the new idea comes with a high price tag: Studio execs are estimating the experiment could cost $100,000 and admit the administrative burden could be even higher.

Sony Pictures, on the other hand, plans to rent screens at three Laemmle Theaters in L.A. to show its top four contenders there throughout December: Big Fish, The Missing, Mona Lisa Smile and Something's Gotta Give. DreamWorks will do the same for House of Sand and Fog at the Laemmle Music Hall Theater in Beverly Hills from Nov. 14 to Dec. 11.

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