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Film critics drop awards in 'screener' ban outcry

October 20, 2003|Lorenza Munoz | Times Staff Writer

Protesting the Motion Picture Assn. of America's ban on movie "screeners," the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. voted Saturday to forego its annual end-of-the-year movie awards.

The 50-member group, one of the more influential critics groups in the nation, decided it could not vote fairly if the ban is left in place.

"We did this very reluctantly," said the group's president, Jean Oppenheimer, a film critic for New Times publications who also is heard on National Public Radio. "So many films are released in November and December, it's just impossible to get to everything." In addition, the screeners -- DVDs and videocassettes distributed by studios during the Hollywood awards season leading up to the Oscars -- allowed critics a chance to view movies no longer in theaters, said Oppenheimer.

The critics' vote was scheduled for mid-December, with the winners' dinner Jan. 26.

The self-imposed ban on screeners was announced Sept. 30 as a move to combat movie piracy. It has drawn widespread criticism from those in Hollywood who believe it will unfairly penalize smaller, independent-style movies.

Those who have spoken out against it include directors, writers, specialized film division chiefs and hundreds of members of the Independent Feature Project in New York and Los Angeles.

The protests have prompted the major studios and the MPAA's Jack Valenti to meet to discuss possible alternatives.

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