New Rules Yield Greater Diversity for AMPAS Board of Governors — Anne Thompson reports

Thanks to new rules, this year’s Academy Board of Governors race was more intense than usual. The Academy’s 17 branches each has three governors on the board; they can serve three consecutive three-year terms. One seat is up for reelection every year. The Board of Governors actually runs the show at the Academy, determining the strategy and mission, and keeping tabs on its financial health. This year, the race was opened up to allow any of the 6200-plus Academy members to run for the board. Before, the membership voted for 50% of a nominating committee that selected candidates to present to the Board. This yielded the same favorites over and over again. Read more>>

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Anne Thompson’s THE $11 BILLION YEAR (Exclusive Excerpt)

145_annethompson

After reporting on everything movies for 25 years, Hollywood pundit Anne Thompson, an AWFJ member, has written her first book. It’s fascinating. We excerpt it here.

From CHAPTER 7: WOMEN, POLITICS, AND ZERO DARK THIRTY

In its history, the Academy’s largely male directors’ branch had nominated only three other women directors—Italian Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties), New Zealander Jane Campion (The Piano), and American Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), daughter of Oscar-winningGodfather creator Francis Ford Coppola.

Gender politics in Hollywood—as everywhere else—are complex, layered, often unconscious, and difficult to parse. One can argue that things are slowly improving for women in the film industry, but they are still woefully underrepresented in too many areas, from hiring, especially as directors, to roles onscreen.

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Top Ten 2012 – Anne Thompson

1. Life of Pi

2. Beasts of the Southern Wild

3. Zero Dark Thirty

4. Silver Linings Playbook

5. Lincoln

6. End of Watch

7. Argo

8. Anna Karenina

9. The Sessions

10. Moonrise Kingdom

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AWFJ Women On Film – Oscar-Winner “In a Better World” Slashed by Harsh Reviews – Anne Thompson comments

Since when is winning an Oscar a bad thing? In his disparaging NYT review ofIn a Better World, A.O. Scott uses its recent foreign Oscar win as a warning sign. Read more>>

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AWFJ Women On Film – “Cheri” – Anne Thompson reviews

It’s devilishly hard to get everything to go right on a movie. Many little things can turn a promising project into something that never quite gels.

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“Fear of Flying: Confessions of a Free Women” – Anne Thompson comments

I watched the six episodes two at a time, three nights running. (I had admired Fox’s 80s doc Beirut: The Last Home Movie.) I was fascinated. Fox took five years of her own life and turned it into the narrative through-line for a survey of women and their life choices in different cultures. Read more>>

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“10,000 B.C.” – Anne Thompson reviews

Well, I’ve seen Roland Emmerich’s latest pixel-fest 10,000 B.C., and it’s no Quest for Fire. Would that it had been silent! Read more>>

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Sundance 2008: Fem-helmed Doc Sells – Anne Thompson reports

Finally, the long-in-the-works “American Teen” deal went down late Tuesday night, marking the fourth movie to sell at Sundance in the last two days. Paramount Vantage acquired all world rights (excluding the U.K.) for $1 million to Nanette Burstein’s Indiana high school cinema verite doc. After the A & E Indie Films documentary screened Friday night, Fox Searchlight made a bid which later expired; Sony Pictures Classics also pursued a deal but pulled out Tuesday afternoon, leaving the pic to Vantage, which is promising a significant P & A commitment. Sellers were Cinetic and CAA.

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Sundance 2008: Women Score “Polanski: Wanted and Desired” – Anne Thompson reports

Sheila Nevins’ HBO documentary unit has acquired North American rights to Marina Zenovich’s Polanski: Wanted and Desired, the hot buzz title of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Read more>>

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“Juno,” commentary by Anne Thompson

My class ate up Juno like it was strawberry ice cream. Read more

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“Gone Baby Gone,” commentary by Anne Thompson

Gone Baby Gone is a tough piece of gritty entertainment. What Miramax will be able to wring out of the boxoffice is anyone’s guess. Read more

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“Lars and the Real Girl,” comments by Anne Thompson

Lars and the Real Girl is one of those movies that walks a tightrope between laughs and genuine emotion. Read more

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Premier Magazine’s obit by Anne Thompson

In her Variety column, Anne Thompson surmises that Premier Magazine’s demise signals the death of long-form entertainment journalism:

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Anne Thompson: Because I Say So!

In THR’s Risky blog, Anne Thompson trumpets Diane Keaton for the star power that earned “Because I Said So” a $13-million opening, despite generally poor reviews.

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Anne Thompson on writing credits for “Nanking”

Referring to David Poland’s cleverly cloaked “Little Red Writing Hood”, Anne Thompson reveals in THR’s Risky the background on screenwriter Lizzy Bentley’s credit on “Nanking.”

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Anne Thompson on Women Directors in the US and Abroad

Pointing to the fact that 12 of the 61 foreign films submitted for 2007 Academy Awards consideration were directed by women, Anne Thompson notes in THR’s Risky Biz blog that women directors have an easier time getting films made abroad than they do in the US. In Hollywood, “the state of support for women directors remains woeful. Even when someone brilliant comes along like Karen Moncrieff, who wrote and directed the 2002 Sundance hit “Blue Car” and this year’s just-released “The Dead Girl,” it’s hard to summon up much optimism for her future,” writes Thompson. In comparison, the women who’ve helmed this year’s Academy Awards submissions from France and Denmark, have directed numerous films in their respective countries– and shun the idea of working in Hollywood because they fear creative controls execised by studios and producers.

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Emma Thompson casts light on child sexual slavery with SOLD — Anne Brodie Reports

Emma Thompson, an outspoken advocate for women and children’s rights is focusing on the international human trafficking crisis. As part of her campaign to end the practice of selling women and children into sexual slavery, Thompson executive produced Sold, a heartbreaking but ultimately hopeful feature film. It is based on the true story of Lakshmi (Niyar Saikia) a rural Nepalese girl sold by her parents to an Indian woman. Watch the trailer and read more about this important and beautifully crafted film.

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The Academy’s 90th Oscars: First Promo, New Time and Shortlists — Michelle Hannett reports

oscars goldKicking of the 90 days to the 90th Oscars, the Academy revealed to movie fans that the telecast from Hollywood on Sunday, March 4, 2018, will now begin at 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST, a half-hour earlier than prior telecasts. As previously announced, late-night talk show favorite Jimmy Kimmel will return to host. Nominations voting opens for the 90th Academy Awards on January 5, 2018, closes on January 12, 2018, with the announcement on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. Women filmmakers are definitely part of the conversation this awards season continue reading…

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Rickey and Thompson: new blogs

AWFJ members Carrie Rickey and Anne Thompson are blogging anew.

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AWFJ Women On Film – The Week In Women, November 13, 2009 – MaryAnn Johanson

Women do so go to the movies, though we maybe shouldn’t watch TV, and Megan Fox is sexy!

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AWFJ Women On Film – The Week In Women, October 9, 2009 – MaryAnn Johanson

The secret of Hollywood success: cheat women. Also: movies about girls are icky, Victorian smelling salts not required, and more.

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AWFJ Members In The News!

It’s time for AWFJ to exercise our bragging rights! We’re proud to report that AWFJ members have been making news, and congratulations are in order:

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“Cineaste” and “Sight and Sound” Polls: Why So Few Women’s Voices? – Jennifer Merin comments

Few pollsters rise to the rigorous standards set by Dr. Martha Lauzen in her Thumbs Down survey about stats on women film critics. Unfortunately neither Cineaste nor Sight and Sound make the grade in their recent studies about film criticism.

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Thumbs Down

Thumbs Down: Representation of Women Film Critics in the Top 100 U.S. Daily Newspapers

By Dr. Martha M. Lauzen

Director

Center for the Study of Women In Television and Film

San Diego State University

Introduction

Contrary to the myriad prognostications of media observers and writers, film criticism is not dead. It is, however, hurtling into a new era in which professional critics share space with amateurs, and credentialed journalists find multiple platforms for their reviews. Through web sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, formerly print-only film critics and writers now supplement their traditional audience with a whole new generation of on-line readers.

A number of these critics have noted the incredibly low numbers of women filmmakers and female protagonists in major studio films. Commenting on the dearth of women directors and lead characters in films released during the summer of 2008, New York Times critic Manohla Dargis opined, “Welcome to the new, post-female American cinema” (“Is There a Real Woman in this Multiplex?”, May 4, 2008, p. 3).

The fact that males dominate the business and art of filmmaking is well documented. According to the latest Celluloid Ceiling report, women comprised a scant 15% of all directors, writers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 films of 2007 (“The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Representation of Women on the Top 250 Films of 2007,” Martha M. Lauzen). In addition, female characters comprised only 28% of all characters in the top 100 films of 2002. However, little is known about the sex of those writing reviews and whether this influences the nature of their reviews. This report seeks to fill this void by asking some basic questions about women’s representation in the ranks of those individuals who write about film in the United States.

This study examined film reviews for theatrical releases written in the top 100 U.S. daily newspapers (by circulation) from October 22, 2007 through December 25, 2007. A list of these newspapers can be found in the Appendix.

The sample included reviews written by film critics; other types of critics including those for television, music, and popular culture; staff reporters; and

freelancers. In addition to tracking the overall numbers of reviews written by these individuals for the top 100 newspapers, one randomly selected review by each individual who wrote during the study period was chosen for additional analysis. These reviews were analyzed for length (number of sentences) and nature of the review (number of positive, negative, or mixed/neutral sentences).

Findings

During the fall of 2007, 186 individuals wrote 2,365 film reviews for theatrical releases appearing in the top 100 daily newspapers in the United States with a combined circulation of approximately 28,215,000 readers. However, because the majority of these reviews also appear on the Internet, the reach and influence of the writers included in this study are far greater than the circulation numbers indicate. According to the Rotten Tomatoes website, over 7 million readers visit the site each month.

Approximately one-quarter (26%) of the newspapers in the study had no women or men writing film reviews during the study period. It is not known whether the absence of film reviews in these newspapers is the result of recent budget cuts or long-standing policies regarding news content. Numerous media reports have documented the recent cutbacks at newspapers nationwide.

Writing for Variety, Anne Thompson noted, “Over the past two years, newspapers have forced out or pushed into early retirement some 28 critics” (“Crix’ Cachet Losing Critical Mass,” April 7-13, 2008, p. 12). Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein observed, “Seeing their business model crumble, many newspapers simply have decided they can’t afford a full range of critics anymore” (“Are They Still Relevant? Everyone’s a Critic,” April 8, 2008, pp. E1, E4).

Of the newspapers featuring film reviews in the fall of 2007, 47% had no reviews written by women critics, writers or freelancers. In contrast, only 12% had no reviews written by men critics, writers or freelancers. Overall, 70% of the individuals reviewing theatrical film releases in Fall 2007 were male and 30% were female. In addition, men wrote significantly more film reviews than women. Men wrote an average of 14 film reviews. Women wrote an average of 9 film reviews.

These imbalances may be slightly tempered by the fact that women critics, writers, and freelancers wrote for newspapers with marginally higher circulations. The average circulation size of newspapers with women writing reviews was 348,530. The average circulation size of newspapers with men writing reviews was 294,760.

In addition, women and men wrote reviews of equal length. Reviews written by both women and men averaged 23 sentences.

In sum, more men than women write film reviews in the nation’s top circulation newspapers, and men write more reviews than women on average. Women work for newspapers with slightly larger circulations and their reviews are the same length as men’s.

Overall, these findings suggest that film criticism in this country’s newspapers is largely a male enterprise, echoing the heavy male dominance behind the scenes and on screen in the film industry.

Sex of Reviewers and Job Titles

Men outnumbered women in every job title category considered in this study. Seventy seven percent (77%) of film critics were male and 23% were

female. Sixty eight percent (68%) of staff writers were male and 32% were female. Eighty four percent (84%) of other types of critics (e.g., television,

theatre) writing film reviews were male and 16% were female. Sixty one percent (61%) of freelancers were male and 39% were female (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Job Title by Sex of Reviewer

Women were most likely to hold the job title of staff writer, whereas men were most likely to hold the job title of film critic. Women writing reviews were most likely to hold the job title of staff writer (35%), followed by film critic (29%), freelancer (29%), or some other type of critic (8%). Men writing reviews were most likely to hold the job title of film critic (37%), followed by staff writer (29%), freelancer (18%), or some other type of critic (16%). These findings indicate that men hold the higher status titles of film critic or critic in categories other than film including television critic, music critic, theatre critic, pop culture critic, and media critic. Individuals with these titles are assumed to have expertise in their given area. In contrast, the women in this study were more concentrated in the staff writer and freelancer categories. These job titles imply a jack-of-all-trades or part-time status.

In every job title category, men wrote more film reviews than women. Men film critics wrote an average of 25 reviews whereas women film critics wrote an average of 19 reviews. Men staff writers wrote an average of 10 reviews and women staff writers wrote an average of 6 reviews. Men critics in areas other than film wrote an average of 6 film reviews whereas women with this job title wrote an average of 3 film reviews. Men freelancers wrote an average of 7 reviews and women freelancers wrote an average of 4 reviews.

Sex of Reviewers and Film Genre

Men wrote more reviews of films in all genres than women. Men wrote 77% and women 23% of reviews about dramas. Men penned 55% and women 45% of reviews about comedies. Men wrote 57% and women 43% of reviews about romantic comedies and dramas (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Genre of Films Reviewed by Sex of Reviewer

Romantic comedies and dramas constituted a larger proportion of the reviews written by women than by men. Sixteen percent (16%) of the reviews written by women but only 9% of the reviews written by men were about romantic comedies and romantic dramas. Twenty seven percent (27%) of the reviews written by women and 14% of the reviews written by men were for non-romantic comedies. Fifty six percent (56%) of the reviews written by women and 77% of the reviews written by men were for non-romantic dramas.

It is unclear whether women chose to review romantic comedies and dramas or if editors were more likely to assign films with romantic themes to women writers. Informal interviews with a number of the critics included in this study suggest that the ratios are a likely result of reviewer choices and editorial assignments. The individuals interviewed described the assignment of film reviews as a highly collaborative process, involving input from both reviewers and editors.

Sex of Filmmaker and Sex of Reviewer

This study considered whether women were more likely than men to review films featuring a female director. However, the number of films with female directors during the study period was so low that it prohibited statistical analysis. Thus, we combined women directors and women writers to create a women behind-the-scenes variable.

Of the reviews written by women, 22% were for films with at least one woman director or writer and 78% were for films with only men as directors and writers. Of the reviews written by men, 14% were for films with at least one woman director or writer and 86% were for films with only men as directors and writers. In other words, films with women filmmakers constituted a larger portion of the films reviewed by women than by men.

It is not clear whether women chose to write reviews of films with women directors and writers or if editors assigned these films to women writers. Informal interviews with film critics included in this study indicate that reviewer choices and editorial assignments produce the reported percentages.

Sex of Protagonist and Sex of Reviewer

This study also considered whether women were more likely than men to review films featuring a female protagonist. However, the number of films featuring a clearly identifiable female protagonist was so low that films falling in this category were combined with films featuring ensemble casts in order to conduct the statistical analysis.

Of the reviews written by women, 33% were for films featuring a female protagonist or ensemble cast and 67% were for films featuring a male protagonist. Of the reviews written by men, 18% were for films featuring a female protagonist or ensemble cast and 82% were for films featuring a male protagonist. In other words, a significantly higher percentage of films reviewed

by women than men were for films featuring female protagonists or ensemble casts.

Once again, it is likely that these findings are due to a combination of reviewer preferences and editorial assignments.

Editors of Film Critics, Writers, and Freelancers

This study identified the sex of the editor of the section containing film reviews. Forty nine percent (49%) of these editors were female and 41% were male. Ten percent (10%) had no section editor or the gender of the section editor was unknown.

Nature of Reviews and Sex of Reviewer

Whereas the numbers of women versus men who write reviews and the number of reviews that they write are decidedly unequal, the nature of the reviews written does not appear to differ by sex of the reviewer.

This study analyzed one randomly selected review by each of the 186 individuals writing reviews during the study period. We counted the number of positive, negative, and neutral/mixed sentences in these reviews. Positive sentences praised some aspect of the film including performances, cinematography, pacing, and storylines. Negative sentences noted poor performances, disjointed plots, and overly pedantic or frenzied pacing. Mixed or neutral sentences included both positive and negative comments or offered plot descriptions.

On average, women and men wrote equally negative reviews. Both women and men wrote reviews with an average of 4 negative sentences. On average, women and men wrote equally positive reviews. Both women and men wrote reviews with an average of 5 positive sentences. The remaining sentences in the average 23-sentence review offered either mixed or neutral observations. In addition, women were not more likely than men to write significantly more positive reviews about films with at least one woman director and/or writer or featuring a female protagonist or ensemble cast. Similarly, men were not more likely than women to write significantly more positive reviews about films with only men filmmakers or featuring a male protagonist.

Conclusion

In summary, women are under-employed as reviewers of film in the nation’s 100 largest circulation newspapers. Not only are women outnumbered as film critics, staff writers, other types of critics, and freelancers, women also review fewer films on average than men. In addition, larger proportions of the films reviewed by women are for films with romantic themes, and those with women filmmakers and women protagonists or ensemble casts. However, the actual reviews written by men and women do not differ significantly in their length or nature. Women and men write equally positive and negative reviews and do not become significantly more positive when writing about films with same-sex protagonists or filmmakers.

Overall, these findings suggest that film criticism in this country’s newspapers is largely a male enterprise, echoing the predominance of men working on screen and behind the scenes in the film industry. In short, men dominate the reviewing process of films primarily made by men featuring mostly males intended for a largely male audience. The under-employment of women film reviewers, actors, and filmmakers perpetuates the nearly seamless dialogue among men in U.S. cinema.

Appendix : Top 100 U.S. Daily Newspapers*

Newspaper

Circulation

USA Today

2,269,509

The Wall Street Journal

2,043,235

The New York Times

1,066.798

Los Angeles Times

  775,766

New York Post

  704,011

Daily News

  693,382

The Washington Post

  656,297

Chicago Tribune

  576,132

Houston Chronicle

  508,097

Newsday

  410,579

The Dallas Morning News

  404,653

The Arizona Republic

  397,294

The Boston Globe

  386,415

Chicago Sun-Times

  382,796

The Star-Ledger

  378,100

San Francisco Chronicle

  373,805

Star Tribune

  358,887

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  350,157

Detroit Free Press

  345,861

The Plain Dealer

  336,939

The Philadelphia Inquirer

  330,622

The Oregonian

  310,803

St. Petersburg Times

  305,854

The San Diego Union-Tribune

  304,334

The Orange County Register

  287,204

Miami Herald

  279,878

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

  276,588

The Sacramento Bee

  273,609

am New York

  266,852

The Times-Picayune

  261,573

The Washington Examiner

  260,950

The Indianapolis Star

  258,696

The Denver Post

  255,935

Rocky Mountain News

  255,675

The Kansas City Star

  254,793

The Baltimore Sun

  236,172

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

  235,154

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  230,781

San Jose Mercury News

  228,880

Express–News

  223,846

Orlando Sentinel

  221,826

The Tampa Tribune

  220,277

The Columbus Dispatch

  217,291

The Seattle Times

  212,691

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  212,075

The Courier-Journal

  210,081

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

  206,991

The Charlotte Observer

  206,497

Boston Herald

  203,552

The Oklahoman

  201,947

The Detroit News

  201,482

The Cincinnati Enquirer

  197,962

St. Paul Pioneer Press

  184,371

The Buffalo News

  183,856

The Virginian-Pilot

  183,210

Richmond Times-Dispatch

  181,369

Hartford Courant

  179,066

Omaha World-Herald

  177,919

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

  176,172

Investor’s Business Daily

  173,169

The Press-Enterprise

  170,965

Contra Costa Times

  168,689

Las Vegas Review-Journal

  168,653

The Austin American-Statesman

  168,569

The Palm Beach Post

  167,605

The Record

  166,392

The News & Observer

  165,483

San Francisco Examiner

  165,183

The Tennessean

  165,131

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

  156,129

Florida Times-Union

  154,700

Commercial Appeal

  154,403

The Providence Journal

  152,736

Daily News

  151,215

Daily Herald

  151,200

The Fresno Bee

  149,491

Asbury Park Press

  148,690

The Des Moines Register

  147,701

The Birmingham News

  143,791

Honolulu Advertiser

  139,312

The Grand Rapids Press

  132,214

The Salt Lake City Tribune

  131,361

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

  126,225

Dayton Daily News

  123,181

The Blade

  123,095

The Journal News

  122,358

La Opinion

  121,572

Akron Beacon Journal

  118,771

Tulsa World

  117,844

The News Tribune

  116,150

Knoxville News Sentinel

  115,608

The Post-Standard

  114,179

Daily News

  112,540

The News Journal

  112,492

Lexington Herald-Leader

  108,442

The Morning Call

  108,200

Herald-Tribune

  107,755

The State

  104,880

Arizona Daily Star

  104,731

Albuquerque Journal

  103,889

*Source: 2007 Editor & Publisher International Yearbook

About the Center

The mission of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film is to celebrate the accomplishments of television and film directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, and editors – who happen to be women. The Center’s programs encourage more women to pursue careers as storytellers, and its research agenda documents trends in women’s employment, the impact of their employment on television and film content, and factors influencing the under-representation of women’s voices in television and film.

About the Author

Dr. Martha M. Lauzen is founder and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. A nationally and internationally recognized expert on the employment of women on screen and behind the scenes, her research has been widely published in scholarly journals, trade publications, and the popular press. Dr. Lauzen directs research at the Center and teaches classes including The Women of Prime Time: From “That Girl” to “Saving Grace” and Film Directors: When Women Call the Shots in the School of Theatre, Television and Film. She holds a doctorate from the University of Maryland, and M.A. and B.A. degrees from the University of Iowa.

Special Thanks

The author wishes to thank the following individuals for their important contributions to this project: Mary Long, M.A. Candidate, Department of Women’s Studies, SDSU, and Douglas M. Deiss, Jr., M.A., School of Communication, SDSU.

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AWFJ Opinion Poll: All About Movie Trailers

Of some 10-billion videos watched on line annually, movie trailers rank #3, after news and user-created video. With such easy and instant access to them, these increasingly popular cinematic morsels are being devoured by moviegoers–and served up with serious consideration by the industry that sometimes spends sums equivalent to a third world country’s annual budget to concoct them.

Timed to coincide with the Ninth Annual Golden Trailer Awards’ ceremony on May 8, AWFJ releases the results of our “All About Trailers Opinion Poll,” surveying AWJF members for their takes on the aesthetics, ethics and impact of trailers: Do we consider trailers to be an art expression or marketing ploy? Can clever trailers catapult indie films into the mainstream? Should theaters charge studios to screen trailers? Would we miss trailers if they were withdrawn?

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