So you have the producers of the small film "Iron Cross" agreeing to pay the trade paper 400K for a multi-faceted promotional campaign under the naïve assumption that it would lead to a distribution deal and perhaps Oscar consideration. How exactly they came to that conclusion could be at the center of the lawsuit that Calibra Pictures has filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The film company says that it had shelled out $200,000 when Variety published a scathing review of "Iron Cross," a review, the producers claim, ruined any commercial hope for the picture. Counts include breach of contract and fiduciary duty, negligence, fraud and unfair business practices. Calibra seeks unspecified damages in excess of $25,000 and a jury trial. Here's The Wrap story.
The suit is interesting on any number of fronts, not the least of which is the often-awkward relationship between a trade paper's advertising and editorial departments. Now, I don't have any inside information on who said what in this particular case. But I do know that the business model for these publications largely depends on revenues from other places besides the daily paper. For Variety, it's Oscar season; for others, it's a slew of "special reports" that are geared to particular industries - and, of course, advertisers. As a matter of course, ad sales people will contact a company that they know will appear in one of these sections, presumably in a positive way. In trying to cut a deal, there's no telling what's implied or even flat-out promised. In my years at the Business Journal, our newsroom would routinely assemble lists of the Best 25 this or that, based on our best journalistic judgments. Each time I was asked to hand over the list to the advertising department, which would then try and sell ads. It was a grubby way to operate a paper, and I would always delay handing over the list, ideally until after the deadline for ad sales. And yet, everybody did it - that was the way these publications made their money, as I was often reminded.
So it's easy to see how something like the Variety incident would take shape: Ad salespeople promising the moon and an editorial department that perhaps wasn't clued into the implied quid pro quo.
Photo: Oscar ad on front cover of Variety.