UPDATE! In this piece I mention that I never got a response from Dade Hayes or Variety – I was wrong! Buried in the mountain of spam that managed to accumulate over a five and a half hour plane trip was a very generous email from Dade explaining what happened behind the scenes at Variety. At his request I won’t print it here, but I will say that I feel the hatchet has been buried enough to encourage you to click this link and buy his excellent book Open Wide: How Hollywood Box Office Became a National Obsession, which should be on the shelf of everyone who is interested in films and how they are marketed.
Please note that my opinions in this piece are unchanged – I do not think Variety started the online Zyzzyx Road fever, and I do think that Peter Bart is none too fond of the internet.
Traveling to Los Angeles on Friday I dealt with all the usual headaches – turbulence, LA traffic, going to the wrong hotel – but it all disappeared when, after finally checking into the right hotel and setting up my laptop, I logged into my email and discovered a link to a new Variety story. A Variety story that was a follow-up to their Zyzzyx Road piece, which had ripped off – and I feel partially plagiarized – my original story about the now-infamous movie that only made $30* at the box office.
The new story was called “Online ‘Zyzzyx’ Gate”, and it was by the same reporter, Dade Hayes, who had done the original grabbed piece. In the new story, Hayes admits that CHUD broke the whole Zyzzyx Road thing wide open: “The stunningly feeble gross figure was first noted Dec. 31 by online film site Chud, following a reader’s tip.” But he then goes on to take credit for Zyzzyx Fever! “A Daily Variety story followed and the online crowd started weighing in — getting the film much more attention than it got in theaters.”
Well, that’s bullshit, Dade, and I think you know it… but what’s the point of fighting it anymore? This piece is about as close as we’ll get to an apology from Variety (by the way, I emailed Hayes and all the senior editors at Variety when they ran the rip-off, and I have never received any response). I like the idea of Peter Bart calling his editors into a meeting to discuss the growing online anger over stealing CHUD’s story.
It was the amount of attention that was being created by Variety ripping us off was exactly what spurred the trade to have Hayes write a follow-up: “The $30 tally was mentioned in a Jan. 4 Daily Variety article, which neglected to credit Chud. That throwaway non-mention became an online Zyzzyx-gate. The perception of malicious literary thievery spawned numerous fulminations, initially on Chud but soon linked to by several other entertainment sites eager to decry the establishment’s alleged disdain for the Net. Rarely has a low-grosser stirred up so much excitement.”
Alleged disdain, Dade? We know that it’s all-too real. Of course, you would have to expect Variety to not be happy when they’re staring their own obsolescence straight in the URL. It’s a brave new world out there, and it’s not just the traditional print media who break the silly, pointless, off-week news stories anymore.
I want to thank everyone who linked to our Zyzzyx Road coverage, and especially everyone who took up the fight once Variety ripped us off. I think this wonderful victory represents the final chapter of the Zyzzyx Road story… but there are two epilogues. I did speak to Leo Grillo on the phone this weekend, and I will be bringing you that senses-shattering interview today or tomorrow. I’m still working out the other epilogue, but I think that we may have forced another movie to change its title. Look for that very soon, as well.
* Leo Grillo told me that this is not true. Zyzzyx Road technically made 20 bucks. Look for the inside scoop in our exclusive interview.