Hollywood critics rebel over studios' video ban

A growing revolt against Hollywood's studio chiefs, lambasted by prominent actors, writers and directors over their decision to stop sending out video copies of films vying for the Oscars, took on a new twist yesterday as the Los Angeles Film Critics Association threatened to cancel its own annual awards unless the decision was quickly reversed.

The furore has turned into the latest battleground in Hollywood's never-ending struggle to balance its commercial instincts with a commitment to artistic excellence.

The studio chiefs say the so-called "screener" copies - sent out months before videos or DVDs of the films in question become commercially available - are an open invitation to piracy. But most film-makers and film critics argue they are an invaluable tool to help them make their selection of the year's best work.

The fear is that the screener ban will unfairly skew the Oscars and other big awards towards the year's well-publicised, big-budget productions at the expense of films like last year's unexpected triple Oscar winner The Piano.

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