The divide between critics and the film industry took an unprecedented turn in Greece this week as Manos Krezias, the head of the local production/distribution/exhibition powerhouse Odeon, filed a lawsuit against Giannis Zoumboulakis, film critic of the Athens daily newspaper To Vima as well as against Christos Memis, editorial director of the newspaper.

Claiming about $386,090 (Euros 250,000) in damages, Krezias accuses the defendants of defamatory slander and tarnishing of Odeon's reputation.

The company's press officer told in an official statement that 'Odeon has no problem with any negative reviews and backs film critics' free expression. Odeon's reaction was due to the defamation and the lies, included in the (Zoumboulakis) film review published March 9 concerning the local title Just Separated.'

Zoumboulakis, when contacted by Screen, stressed that 'what I described in the review, the tendency by producers to update old formulas which guarantee the box office success of commercial fare, is just a criticism of such formulas and the ensuing films. I had no intention whatsoever of damaging Odeon's reputation.'

Zoumboulakis -- and similar criticism from other reviewers -- refers to the proliferation again this year of local comedies and entertainment fare at top positions of the local box office.

The Odeon move comes after last year's controversy that critic Ilias Frangoulis, at the weekly free-press mass circulation Athens Voice, was sacked by his editor when Odeon decided to stop advertising in the paper because of his reviews. Odeon resumed placing advertisements in the paper once the reviewer was replaced.

More recentl, Zoumboulakis, prior to the lawsuit, had been barred from Odeon press screenings and junkets. The reviewer of another prestigious Athens daily was barred from talent interviews arranged by Odeon at the recent Cannes film festival as the company was unhappy with his reviews.

Reactions from different sectors of the local film community, concerning the Odeon lawsuit range from condemnation to mild approval.

Art-house distributors, such as Peggy Karatzopoulou (PCV) and George Stergiakis (AMA) are opposed to the suit. Karatzopoulou, Greek representative at and member of the board of Europa Distributors as well as member of the board of the Union of Greek film distributors (EDIKTE) told ScreenDaily: ' I totally disagree with such extreme measures as lawsuits. I believe in collaboration between all sectors of the film community and I advocate a negotiated solution to this matter.'

Stergiakis adds: 'I disagree with such developments. We cannot persecute film critics whenever they produce negative reviews and adulate them when they write positively for films we distribute.'

Takis Veremis, general manager of the audiovisual sector at the Audiovisual production/distribution/exhibition powerhouse adopts a cautious approach: 'A film reviewer should be free to express his opinion on a film. However if the publication is slanderous and affects the reputation of the company involved then the company has the right to defend itself,' he said.

Andreas Tyros, president of the Greek film critics union (PEKK), said that film critics need to take a common stand against the lawsuit. PEKK is due to shortly issue an official statement.