The About Time embargo, how it looks on the 'outside' and why it's time film sites had a rethink

This isn't the first time that an embargo on publishing reviews of a major release proved to be a big talking point nor, I suspect, sadly, will it be the last. The case of the About Time embargo that never was did, though, hit some first time sour notes.

It wasn't just the fact that the PR company in question decided to apply an embargo that writers had never signed, nor the fact that the writers had seen the film at a public screening. Oh no.

It was the fact that publications went along with it.

For a while now its been unclear, at least to me, who is the tail and who is the dog of the oft-necessary, oft-productive, relationship between PR and film publications, when it comes to embargoes. On Wednesday it was pretty clear.

The job of someone, or an organisation, in press relations is to secure and enable the best possible coverage for the film they are trying to promote. The job of a film site is to publish original honest reviews of films their writers have seen. Who wasn't doing their job on Wednesday?

Might it be that it is now time, after the latest in a series of distasteful embargo rumpuses, for film publications to focus themselves, and learn an important lesson; a lesson in 'how to tell an embargo where it can go and stick itself'.

Sites which went live with About Time reviews on or before Wednesday had already made their bed. They should have slept in it.

Allowing themselves to be bullied, cajoled or otherwise convinced by a PR company to alter an editorial decision reflects badly on them, more so than it does on the PR company who were, of course, trying to do their job, albeit in a roundabout, slightly below the belt way.

It won't be the little men that change this flux of day-of-release or otherwise preposterous attempts to alter when someone is allowed to have an opinion on something. The next time an embargo is enforced for day-of-release, why should any of the big boys play along with it, any more than anyone played along with Wednesday's debacle?

Wouldn't not playing along with it, in fact, single them out as a bastion of anti-embargo resistance; for the people, by the people, when the people want to read about Richard Curtis Rom-Coms! To the barricades!

Send a writer to the first London public screening of the next day-of-release embargoed film; their review will still be on the site by early afternoon, plenty of time to catch people before they decide to see something that night. Ignore the PR embargo game. Cut out the middle men and women. Get back to films, words and audiences and lets have none of this silly business, which leads to discussions like the one on Wednesday, from which no-one emerged victorious, certainly not in the eyes of a switched-on, clued-in public, who all have twitter and the Internet - elements apparently forgotten at inglorious moments like this.

Perhaps everyone won't agree, but that's part of writing about film, in fact of writing in general: you have an opinion and you're going to air it. Or not, in the case of the disappearing About Time reviews, when someone apparently said opinions were banned and several people listened.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.


  1. That's very weird. So what did the PR company threaten them with? No more access to early screenings?

    1. There was the suggestion that they had threatened them with having to watch it again...

      I suspect there was a quiet conversation where the point was made that the PR company wanted a major push on it in September. Still doesn't make any difference. The site could have ran two reviews or ignored that request in one of a thousand ways.