The Hollywood Reporter is kinda over, again. It’s a shame.
Yesterday they axed 30% of their staff including the dean of movie critics, Todd McCarthy. He’d been with them this time since 2009. He’d worked for them before, and for Variety twice in his career. Todd, who’s not dead, and will certainly surface successfully, is what gave THR any credibility. (I’m not discounting David Rooney, their excellent theater critic.)
But THR’s run from the time it was bought from Nielsen by a shaky consortium of Guggenheim Partners, Rudy Giuliani stooge publisher of “The Hill” Jimmy Finkelstein, and a guy named Matthew Doull (ex husband of writer Vicky Ward since vanished), is done. A decade of hubris and overspending has ended with hari kari, and a capitulation to non journalistic mandates.
First they ousted editor Matthew Belloni, who didn’t want to kowtow to celebrities or his overlords Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu of Media Rights Capital, whom Boehly put in charge of the magazine. MRC finances movies. They’re a company that THR would be writing about. But Boehly sucked them into his post-Guggenheim game (even though they’re all still tied to Guggenheim.) Last year, MRC made “Knives Out,” for example. They are in the game. They are heavily involved in TV production. Last year they formed a partnership with talent agency, UTA, which led to a civil war in the business. When push came to shove, which it did, MRC’s interests were more valuable than covering the movie business.
Boehly formed Eldridge Industries when he took the Reporter, Billboard, and other elements of Guggenheim like Dick Clark Productions, which produces the Golden Globes and the American Music Awards. Out of that came Valence, the publishing company name for the entity that has the trade magazines. THR is said to have been losing $20 million a year. Billboard probably was, too. He just kept pumping more and money into the balloon until it burst. Now all these people are out of work, McCarthy among them.
This site, Showbiz411.com, actually began because I had a contract with Nielsen to write a column and write for the Reporter in 2009-10. When Guggenheim–using the name Prometheus– bought the magazines from Nielsen at the end of 2009, they couldn’t have acted in a less honorable manner. First they renewed and extended my contract, then they tried to terminate it, then they asked me to keep writing for them, and then they terminated the contract. That was the day they pulled the plug on my column without warning.
Here’s a funny story. That same day, I got a call in the morning with a scoop: Rosie O’Donnell was returning to TV to do a talk show for Oprah’s OWN channel. I had the exclusive. But I was out at THR. So my trusty designer and “Scottie” (from “Star Trek”) pulled us away (somehow) from THR, designed a new site with the same name (I owned the url) and pointed everything anew. On the new site, the same day, I broke the Rosie story. And THR had to link to me. This was all in 8 hours.
Now they’ve fired Todd McCarthy, the main reason to read the Reporter. Variety and the Reporter break the reviews on movies, a signal to movie theaters, as well as moviegoers, about a film’s future. Without an eminent reviewer, the Reporter is an Oreo without the middle. Do you ever eat the wafers without the creamy middle? No.
Of course, Boehly and co’s rationale is probably that there won’t be much work for the next few months until big movies are allowed back into theaters. But McCarthy, who says he just got a raise, could have written lots of other stuff besides reviews. He’s an invaluable asset, and wherever he goes, that’s what he’ll do. In the fall, or sometime thereafter, the movie business will right itself and The Hollywood Reporter will be down many great journalists starting with McCarthy. I can’t wait for the day when they have to quote him from another publication. Todd, it’s a great feeling.
PS Deadline now reports that in addition to Belloni and McCarthy, THR also axed their publisher, Lynne Segall, who they had poached from the pre-Penske Deadline in 2011. The irony is that Jay Penske, who came into all this with little background, scooped up Deadline, Variety, Rolling Stone, WWD, etc. and played the right game. He won.