Interesting Austinites: Harry Knowles

Cinequest

Harry Knowles is probably one of the first real web celebrities. Born and raised in Austin (with a brief stint in Seymour, Texas on his mother’s ranch), Harry’s interest in comics and the movie industry was cultivated from an early age by his father, Jarrell Jay Knowles, an avid comic collector and dealer.

Harry is the founder of anititcool.com, a movie review and gossip website he started in 1995 after building a network of followers and “spies” – people he met in online movie forums, developing a small but rabid following of movie fans and studio executives alike. It was a realization that there was no site or forum dedicated to regular updates on the movie industry that inspired him to start what would become aintitcool.

Harry’s site gained worldwide attention in 1997 after he published negative reviews from early screenings of the George Clooney starring Batman and Robin, the fourth and effectively last entry (for a decade or so) in the Batman movie franchise kicked off by Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. A rapid boost in popularity led to the site becoming profitable and allowed Harry to grow his roster of writers and contributors. From that point, Harry became synonymous with making or breaking a movie pre-release in the eyes of many studio execs. John McTiernan, Peter Jackson, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino and more can all cite the influence of Harry’s writing on their movies reception. While studios and movie personnel may have learned how to become more secretive, the power of Harry’s site – and, by default the other sites that came after aintitcool – to make or break a movie in the eyes of many film fans, is undeniable.

A Hollywood Reporter story claimed that in the early 2000’s, aintitcool earned up to 700,000 per year, but that number has gone down considerably since then – some blaming the site’s late 90’s look and feel, while others claim that aintitcool was simply overtaken by newer sites. Issues with the IRS, health issues old and new, a reputation as either a sell-out or a genius (depending on who you asked), and a confusing Kickstarter for a second season of Aint It Cool TV haven’t slowed Harry down however. The site continues to post multiple updates and reviews daily, and – despite the naysayers – shows no sign of slowing down. Many give Harry credit for making Austin the filmmaker’s location of choice that it is today. It certainly can’t be denied that without Harry Knowles, Austin’s movie industry would be significantly less interesting and colorful.

Photo by Cynthia Pyun/FlickrCC

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