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Movie Producer Says Variety Sandbagged It

(CN) - Calibra Pictures claims that after it paid Variety magazine $226,000 to promote a movie, the magazine scorched the film, "Iron Cross," in a scathing review before the promotional campaign was over. Calibra claims the Dec. 20 movie review was "inaccurate and hostile."

In its complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court, Calibra claims that it signed an "exclusive promotion partnership agreement" for Variety to market the movie in the magazine. Calibra says it promised Variety from $350,000 to $427,000 for an Oscar award campaign.

After paying $226,000, Calibra says, Variety published a "scathing" review of the movie, "effectively destroying" its chance at an Academy Award.

"Iron Cross," written and directed by Joshua Newton, starred the late Roy Scheider as a Holocaust survivor who returns to Germany and discovers that the Nazi who killed his family during World War II is living in his estranged son's apartment.

Calibra claims that Dawn Allen, Variety's director of film and talent advertising, and Variety president Neil Stiles "courted" it at lunches and industry parties, encouraging it to partner with Variety on the film's promotion.

Allen allegedly sent Calibra a booklet predicting "possible Oscar contenders," including "Iron Cross," along with a letter saying, "let Variety be your exclusive media partner."

But Calibra says when it agreed, Variety stabbed it in the back.

After several successful screenings, Calibra says, Variety published a "hostile" review under the headline: "Iron Cross will be remembered as Roy Scheider's Swan Song but little else."

The article by Robert Koehler allegedly attacked all aspects of the movie and predicted it would "quickly close" after a one-week run, according to the complaint.

Variety claimed that the review was "only one person's opinion" and that "no one takes these reviews seriously," but Calibra says the review was an industry perspective "clearly aimed at [Academy Award] voters to not even bother watching the Iron Cross DVD." It says the review was tantamount to "a statement to distributors that the film was hardly worthy of a video release, let alone a theatrical release."

Though Variety initially removed the article from its Web site, Calibra says editor Tim Gray reposted it on March 5, after telling the L.A. Times, "We decided after investigating all the issues that we're standing by our review, so we put it back up."

Calibra seeks damages for breach of contract, fraud, deceit and unfair business practices. It is represented by Timothy McGonigle of Santa Monica.

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