Why Nikki Finke Never Makes a MistakeS

Part of Deadline Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke's pose as the only real journalist in Hollywood is her claim that everyone else just conveys spin, while she offers the truth. But her "truth" has a habit of changing.

Nikki, the internet remembers everything. For instance, it remembers — courtesy our RSS reader which handily enough tracks changes in blog posts — how you originally characterized the opening numbers of the new Michael Jackson movie This Is It as "extraordinary," and changed it to "disappointing" after getting spun the other way. One of those is true!

This isn't the first time she's turned 180 degrees without any disclosure as to what changed her mind. In Tad Friend's profile of Finke in The New Yorker, he retells the tale of how she once posted an item claiming that Jeff Berg was out at the talent agency ICM, only to later erase that text and replace it with a new item that started, "Let me knock down that rumor making the rounds that Jeff Berg is supposedly leaving ICM." She told Friend that the original, completely wrong post "was up for about a minute." There's no real way to tell because she never noted the change and never changed the original time stamp.

There was also an incident concerning her "scoop" about who was going to direct the third Twilight movie:

Finke is conscientious about fixing errors noted by her sources, but she is less hospitable to challenges from colleagues. In March, Patrick Goldstein, who writes the Big Picture blog for the Los Angeles Times, reproved Finke for getting her facts wrong when she wrote a story saying that Summit Entertainment was telling people that Juan Antonio Bayona would direct the third installment of the hit vampire series "Twilight." (The job eventually went to David Slade.) Finke might have simply riposted with further evidence that Summit executives had picked Bayona but were embarrassed that he hadn't taken the job; instead, she wrote a followup story blasting Goldstein: "I'd hate to think Patrick is becoming one of those journalists who, because they can't break news, dump on those who do."

Other bloggers jumped in, delighted to see Finke under fire. One pointed out that Finke had quietly returned to her original post about Bayona and inserted qualifying material, including the sentence "I'm not saying he's been offered the job or hired, which in Hollywood involves deal memos, signed contracts, and the like." She explains, "I didn't change what I wrote-I added to it."

So, here's what Finke wrote this morning about the This Is It numbers:

THURSDAY 10:30 AM: Sony just announced that Michael Jackson's This Is It opened Wednesday to an extraordinary start all around the world in 99 countries with a 1-day gross of $20.1 million. The film opened to 7.4 million domestically and $12.7 internationally. Foreign highlights include strong performances from the UK $1.940, France $1.370, Japan $1.160, Germany $1.050, China $.730, Sweden $.490, Holland $.390, Mexico $.370, Brazil $.350, and Australia $.330. The film opens in 10 additional territories today. The studio believes that the worldwide launch, with very strong performance across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia, represents an amazing beginning for the film and...

Here's what she says now:

THURSDAY 10:30 AM: Sony just announced that Michael Jackson's This Is It opened Wednesday all around the world in 99 countries with a 1-day gross of $20.1 million. Immediately, Hollywood considered that disappointing after all the pre-sales hype surrounding the concert footage and its 2-week limited run. The film opened to a paltry $7.4 million domestic even including Tuesday's $2.2M late night showings. That's almost 50% less than the $17M Sony hoped for, and 39% less than the $12M Hollywood expected. "This is not promising," a rival studio exec just told me. Even overseas, where Michael Jackson is considered more popular than here, its solid but not spectacular debut was $12.7 million internationally. (Foreign numbers included UK $1.9M, France $1.3M, Japan $1.1M, Germany $1.0M, China $730K, Sweden $490K, Holland $390K, Mexico $370K, Brazil $350K, and Australia $330K. The film opens in 10 additional territories today.) The studio tried to put the best face on the bow, claiming the worldwide launch featured "very strong performance" across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia, and "represents an amazing beginning for the film and a reaffirmation of the global appeal of Michael Jackson". Uh, no. In North America, This Is It took in the highest gross ever for a Wednesday in October, which is a rather minor record. "The studio expects strong word of mouth and impressive critical acclaim to continue to drive ticket sales," a Sony spokesman said. There was some good news for the studio: the movie received an "A" Cinemascore across the board.

Interestingly, Finke posted the first one at 10:30 a.m., and then got a call or e-mail from some sniping exec telling her how "Hollywood considered" the numbers disappointing, and then traveled back in time and posted the second one at "10:30 a.m.". This woman's powers transcend temporal instantiation. No wonder no one can take a picture of her.

We called Finke to get her reaction and had a delightful conversation. Here's what she said on the record: "You're full of shit. Gawker doesn't practice journalism and lives to impugn those who do." She followed up with an email: "I'm flattered that Gawker reads me so closely, especially when I had the Sony press release up for all of a few minutes. Once I had a chance to analyze the numbers, I updated that they were disappointing." When Nikki Finke regurgitates press releases without analysis, she only does it for a minute.

UPDATE: At 3:44 p.m. EST, we changed the lead tag on this item to "get me rewrite," because this new-fangled tag system rendered our original choice of "do-overs" as "doovers," which looked silly, right?