Monday, February 14, 2011

Where Do You Get Your Entertainment News?

Since I spend so much of this blog commenting on entertainment news, I figured it was a good idea to spend a post talking about where I'm actually getting my entertainment news from and how I stay in the loop.

When I was a kid, there were only two ways I could get any real entertainment news. One was the weekend edition of the Los Angeles Times, that my parents would bring home along with the local Chinese-language World Journal from the supermarket every Sunday morning. I read the Calendar section cover to cover, and especially loved flipping through the pages and pages of ads for films currently playing in theaters. I even saved a couple of the ones that were printed in color. My other source was "Entertainment Tonight," with Mary Hart and John Tesh. The fact that it featured so much celebrity gossip didn't bother me much back then, because there as always the possibility that I was going to see set footage or maybe clips of a new trailer or learn what project Steven Spielberg was going to do next. Thus, I didn't hear about most movies until I started seeing their marketing campaigns, or reviews popped up on "Siskel & Ebert."

As a teenager, when the Internet stormed into my life and refused to leave, it became all about the upstart rumor mill websites like Aint It Cool News (AICN) and Dark Horizons, which not only displayed no interest in Brad Pitt's love life, but turned their spotlights on the kind of films that I loved back then - the big action blockbusters and geek properties. After years of picking through mainstream sources for tidbits of real information, suddenly all the casting announcements and early reviews and set visits I could ask for were right there. I still check AICN daily, though their reviews are a mixed bag and many of their scoops come in later than other sources. The site's writers are solid film nerds who can provide a lot of valuable context and commentary. I enjoy many of their features and columns, especially the more nostalgic material. I just don't look to them as my primary source of entertainment news anymore.

These days my priorities have shifted again, and it's all about the news aggregators. I'm no longer interested just in production details, but developments in the wider entertainment industry too. I like the Cinematical movie blog, recently acquired by Moviefone, which is a good mix of reviews and deal announcements and general interest material about films, aimed at your average film nerd. I also check the Google News Entertainment section, which is a good barometer of the stories that are getting the most attention, though they usually include too much celebrity gossip - what the majority of the American public thinks of when they hear the words "entertainment news." Is it entertainment? Sure. Is it news? Not to me. I don't care if a newly single Scarlett Johanssen may be hooking up with Sean Penn until it starts to affect somebody's career.

The two big non-aggregator sources I check in on regularly are the various Los Angeles Times entertainment blogs and the Nikki Finke-edited Deadline website, which both provide news about the business deals and studio earnings and the other statistics that are at the real key to keeping up with Hollywood. Sure, the business end of things can be dull, and the middle-aged executives aren't nearly as much fun to follow as the creative talent - until you realize that these are the guys who finance, greenlight, and decide the fate of all the movies and television shows that come out of Hollywood, and are the gatekeepers for most of the content produced outside it too. You want to know why the 23rd James Bond movie has been delayed for so long? Take a gander at what corporate raider Carl Icahn has been up to for the last year. Even though I don't have the background for deep analysis of their antics, I've found it vital context for everything else going on.

Finally, it bears mentioning that I don't get much of my entertainment news from the traditional trade papers, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. Variety especially cultivates its elitism and exclusivity to the point where I find it practically useless. I don't have the money to spend on the print publication, and the extreme security measures on their website are too much of a hassle. Practically everything they report on is now available through free sources, or is analyzed, commented on, and dissected by a dozen blogs and sites within a few hours. I used to fantasize about having a subscription to Variety, or even something like Entertainment Weekly, but these days the Internet has brought access to the same content to everyone, even the lowly amateur blogger like me.

Did you hear who's picked up the distribution rights to that Elmo documentary from Sundance? Not yet, but I know how I'll probably be finding out.

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