u_topn picture
rub_wc picture
The Second Coming.

Jesus and Elvis meet Dolly.

New Definition.

A preview of the Oxford English Dictionary's electronic edition points the way to a new kind of reference work.

The Lolita Effect.

What Vladimir Nabokov and Bill Clinton have in common.

Normandy: 1944

As Saving Private Ryan sweeps the country, learn about the reality behind the celluloid images.

Investigating the Renaissance

An interactive exhibit shows how digital imaging can reveal a painting's secrets.

Miles Ahead

An elegant multimedia tribute to the music (and commercial appeal) of Miles Davis.

Eminent Domains

Making sense of the great Internet land grab.

Artists in Lab Coats.
Call it "the work of art in the age of scientific photography."

For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.
September 2, 1998

Ain't It Cool News The publicity machines that pave the way for releases of big-budget films often use the Internet as a promotional tool. But the anarchic Internet has also spawned a site that to many Hollywood executives is like an annoying mosquito that they just can't get rid of. Ain't It Cool News, a clearinghouse for gossip on upcoming films, is the brainchild of Harry Knowles, a twenty-six-year-old college dropout who created the site in April, 1996, while homebound after being run over by a dolly carrying 1200 pounds of film merchandise. The site first created a splash when some of Knowles's "spies" reported that test audiences hated Batman and Robin and Speed 2 -- both big-budget sequels that later flopped. Knowles now reportedly has more than a thousand informants in the film industry who leak information to him on scripts, casting lists, sets, and early audience reactions -- all of which the studios want to keep private. According to Knowles -- who has been called "the most feared man in Hollywood," though he actually lives with his dad in Austin, Texas -- studios have tried to shut down his site at least once. Several studios, indeed, are said to have changed elements of their films because of pre-release criticism broadcasted on AICN.

Harry Knowles
Harry Knowles
on Up to the

Ain't It Cool News is by no means undiscovered: the site draws about 450,000 daily readers, according to The Ottawa Daily Citizen (though such figures are notoriously hard to pin down), and has received a good deal of media attention; so much, in fact, that a friend of Knowles's has created The Harry Knowles Media Watch, listing dozens of articles along with radio and TV snippets. For whatever reason, though, AICN is rather difficult to find on the Web: it doesn't show up on the movie-site indexes of such prominent sites as Netscape, Yahoo, Lycos, and Infoseek.

AICN, which has recently been redesigned, maintains the feeling of a small-time site on which dispatches are posted as they're written, with little attention paid to spelling and grammar, and even less attention paid to political correctness. On even a brief visit to the site, one is apt to learn a lot about its quirky creator, whose film reviews often include lengthy descriptions of his daily life -- but never give away the plot without a prominent warning to readers.

While Knowles seems to have attained an almost cult-like status among the self-professed "film geeks" who frequent the site, he is quick to point out that he's merely collecting information that was already out there. As he told The Los Angeles Times last year, "All I've done is bring everyone together. The Internet has given the audience a voice, and I've just tapped into that."

Copyright © 1998 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
Cover Atlantic Unbound The Atlantic Monthly Post & Riposte Atlantic Store Search

Click here