Ain't It Cool News (AICN) is a website founded and run by Harry 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 Web site as part of his Internet hobby. A principal offering was Knowles's 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 1990s web template, being outpaced by newer sites and its continuing difficulty generating the scoops and headlines it was known for in its prime.