Ain't It Cool News
Ain't It Cool News home page
Type of site
|Film review, television review, comic books|
|Created by||Harry Knowles|
|Alexa rank||29,746 (May 2018[update])|
Ain't It Cool News (AICN) is a website founded by Harry Knowles and run by Dannie Knowles, dedicated to news, rumors and reviews of upcoming and current films, television and comic book projects, with an emphasis on science fiction, superhero, fantasy, horror and action genres.
Ain't It Cool News was launched in 1996, and its name is attributed to a quote from John Travolta's character in the film Broken Arrow. Knowles began surfing the internet while recovering from a debilitating accident in 1994. He spent a lot of time in newsgroups exchanging gossip and rumors about upcoming films, eventually creating his own website as part of his internet hobby. A principal offering was Knowles' colorful movie reviews, but the primary distinction from other sites was the (ostensible) insider news articles. Production assistants, people in the industry, secretaries and other behind-the-scenes folk would submit news such as casting decisions, scripts and release dates, though Knowles himself has admitted that in the beginning, some of the articles from these alleged "spies" were his own work generated from scouring the newsgroups.
Over the next few years the site expanded by adding associate contributors across the globe, most of whom would go by pseudonyms, such as Chicago movie critic Steve Prokopy, who goes by the name "Capone" on AICN, Eric Vespe ("Quint"), Moises Chiullan ("Monty Cristo") and UK-based critic Adam Stephen Kelly ("Britgeek").
The website garnered national attention in 1997 with the release of Batman & Robin. Knowles posted several negative reviews from preview screenings. When the film performed poorly at the box office, studio executives complained that it had been sabotaged by the leaks to the Internet. However, negative reviews from other, more traditional media confirmed what Knowles had posted. From there, the site's popularity rapidly expanded. National magazines such as People and Newsweek called for interviews with Knowles.
The site was parodied in the film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back when the lead characters look at the Movie Poop Shoot site. That site was created at MoviePoopShoot.com as part of the film's publicity, and existed as a similar site for some time. However, after the release of Clerks II, the site was shut down. A site has since been put back up at that same URL, now run by Quick Stop Entertainment, a company probably best known for running the semi-official site for the TV series Scrubs and the official sites for the other films by Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back writer/director Kevin Smith.
Occasionally, filmmakers interact with fans on the site. Sylvester Stallone answered numerous questions from fans in the site's message boards while publicizing the release of Rocky Balboa as well as The Expendables. Bruce Willis also posted on the website briefly to promote his film Live Free or Die Hard.
On April 5, 2012, the first episode of Ain't It Cool with Harry Knowles was posted on YouTube. This scripted film news show, presented by Harry Knowles, is intended "to translate the fantasy-esque world of Ain't It Cool News to a different medium". In this episode, Knowles reviewed what he claimed to be the script for Ridley Scott's highly anticipated film Prometheus; however, screenwriter Damon Lindelof announced that Knowles must have been "duped", as the script was a fake which had been posted on the Internet almost a month before, Knowles then updated the story on the site and attempted an explanation.
Decline of AICN in popularity
According to an April 5, 2013 article in The Hollywood Reporter, Knowles' site made $700,000 per year in revenue in its early 2000s prime. However, by 2013, traffic had dwindled and ad revenue had dropped to the low six figures. The Hollywood Reporter also noted that Knowles owed $300,000 in back taxes to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service by that point and that the inability of AICN to adapt beyond a dated '90s web template, being outpaced by newer sites and its continuing difficulty generating the scoops and headlines it was known for in its prime.
Sex assault allegations against Harry Knowles
On Sept. 23, 2017, it was reported on IndieWire and circulated in other national media that Knowles had allegedly sexually assaulted a woman named Jasmine Baker on two occasions in 1999 and 2000 at official Alamo Drafthouse events in Austin, Texas, and that when informed of the incidents by Baker, Drafthouse owners took no action. Knowles has since denied the allegations.
In response to the story, a number of Ain't It Cool News contributors resigned from the site. Blogger Horrorella announced her departure on September 24. Longtime writers Steve Prokopy, who used the pseudonym "Capone," and Eric Vespe, who as "Quint," had been with the site since its beginnings, announced September 25 that they were leaving AICN.
On September 25, Alamo Drafthouse owner Tim League announced that the company, whose theater had served as home to the annual Butt-Numb-a-Thon film fest Knowles organized to commemorate his own birthday, had severed all ties with Knowles as a result of the controversy, while the Austin Film Critics Association voted to remove Knowles as a member of the group.
By September 26, four more women had come forward on social media and through interviews with IndieWire to accuse Knowles of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Gloria Walker posted on Twitter and told IndieWire that Knowles had allegedly touched her inappropriately on a number of occasions, including in 2011, and that she had been warned by others about his behavior. Film writer Britt Hayes alleged Knowles had reached out to her in 2011 and told her the "real way" to get admission to the limited seating of Butt-Numb-a-Thon was to show him her breasts.
Another female writer, who asked IndieWire to keep her anonymous, said she was contacted by Knowles via Twitter in April 2017 and, following conversations about film, Knowles began sending her lewd, unsolicited texts. The writer posted what were purported to be screengrabs of the conversations on her Twitter account, on which she writes under a pseudonym.
Former Alamo Drafthouse employee Jill Lewis posted on Facebook, and allowed Indiewire to publish, her account of alleged harassment from Knowles. She said while working at the chain's Highball location, Knowles had grabbed her by the arm, told her he was "high on mushrooms" and said that he and his wife wanted to see her naked that night. Lewis said she politely declined and left. She said Knowles behavior prior to the incident was "common knowledge" among Alamo employees.
As for the site itself, on September 26, Knowles announced that he was stepping down from the site for "therapy, detox, and getting to a better place." He placed his sister, Dannie, who used the moniker "Pekosa Peligrosa," in control, and suggested that he was training her to run the site. Dannie herself started posting September 26, claiming a period of "female control" and intimating that there would be more female-accessible content for the foreseeable future.
Rebuilding AICN under new management
With Dannie Knowles now running the website and only two original contributors, "Hercules" and "Annette Kellerman" remaining, she set out to hire a new staff of writers. Starting first with the local Austin scene and eventually accepting writers from across the U.S., she brought in people with an eye on creating a more "diverse and inclusive" group of contributors. The new team at AICN includes:
The new writers initially dealt with numerous accusations of being pseudonyms for Harry Knowles or that they were secretly in his employment. Over time, these accusations have been mostly debunked. The most famous example of this occurred when "Big Eyes" posted a video clip of herself as part of an April Fool's Day joke review of the family film Paddington 2. 
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