The Demise of the Film Critic

20 Nov
As Resources Dwindle, Newspapers Send Their Dedicated Film Critics Packing
Steven Josh, Margaret Christine Perkins, and Lucas Ayoub,
St. Edwards University
Austin
The opinion of a film critic was once one of the strongest factors in determining the success of a movie. Today, we are finding that the opinions of these professional movie critics, such as Roger Ebert, may be completely irrelevant to today’s audiences. There has often been a poorly reviewed movie that made it big at the box office. This ineffectiveness has the film industry wondering if movie critics are still needed.
The more in-depth analysis of critics are too specialized and complex to appeal to the mainstream. Originally these critiques were made for the general public, but with their over-analyzing they seem to be relevant to only film buffs and students. Discussing what the director was trying to portray with the use of “the black tree in the backyard” doesn’t really matter to the mainstream
Shows like Ebert and Roeper were created to tell audiences whether or not they should waste their time on a movie. Today, audiences are making that judgment on their own. It seems like the only factor that determines if a film does well prior to its premiere is if the movie’s trailer does it’s job by “wowing” audiences. With the creativity in making a trailer a movie of it’s own, the public is ignoring the critics and placing their decisions on these two-minute shorts.The rise of many websites and entertainment providers, such as Rotten Tomatoes.com and Netflix, are al so changing the game in offering a more popular source of public opinion. Websites make it more convenient for people to go online and get all the information on a movie that they need. They are able to watch trailers, read plot summaries, check the box office charts, and read comments by other people with the same goal as them, to select an enjoyable movie to watch.

As the rise of other opinion sources come, we are seeing a decline in movie critics. Newspaper companies, such as the Austin American Statesman, did not even have full-time movie critics on their staff as they once had before. More recently, Roger Ebert has said that his movie review television show, At The Movies, is in danger of cancellation due to lack of funding. Although this is not discussed, the lack of funding could be the effect of lack of interests. –Steven Josh

As more readers substitute online sources for the content previously obtained from their local newspapers, revenue has been drastically reduced.  Newspapers have fought to embrace new business models to remain solvent.
In a move to focus dwindling resources and trim expenses in a way that offers unique content to ensure relevance to the reader, papers are sharpening their focus on local topics with a clear connection to the community to compete with online news sites.
Since 2007, newspapers in Tampa, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Denver, Dallas, and Houston have all released their film critic staff, opting to use wire reviews such as the Associated Press, and other content from other national news organizations for content that covers the national film scene, while spreading their editorial staff to cover film news of local significance.
For example, Rich Copley, who covers film as part of his job as culture writer at the Herald-Leader in Lexington, Kentucky, (will cover a George Clooney film, because Lexington is) Clooney’s birthplace. In fact, although Lexington may not spring to mind when most people think of movie capitals, the city is a good example of the reach that film can have in Middle America: Copley also closely tracks Johnny Depp and Ashley Judd, two stars with Kentucky roots, as well as former state gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lunsford, whose production company helped finance Sundance Audience Award-winner “Grace is Gone.” For several years, Copley has followed the work of Jason Epperson, who appeared on the Fox reality show and filmmaking competition “On the Lot” this summer.

“You have to keep an eye out for local talent,” Copley says. “And when a film like ‘Seabiscuit,’ which is about thoroughbred racing and where they spent a month here filming, comes along, there is tremendous interest here,” he notes.   The End of the Affair,American Journalism Review, September 2007

While the trend, historically, has been that good reviews equal good box office, neither the professional critic, nor the opinion of the citizen/consumer presently has as clear a correlation.  —Margaret Christine Perkins

Before the advent of the Internet and the over-saturation of film reviews that came with it, It was safe bet that a film receiving critical praise had as about much pull at the box-office as say a trailer premiering during the Super Bowl does now. However these days a good review is not an accurate predictor of a film’s financial success.
In fact there appears to be no correlation between critical praise and financial success.  In the past weekend alone the top two grossing films at the box office ‘Immortals’ and ‘Jack and Jill’ were considered financial successes despite being critical failures.
Then there are films that have received positive reviews from both critics and audiences alike such as ‘Drive’, ‘Warrior’ and ‘50/50’, however that also did not correlate to box-office success.
What this suggests is that financial success for a movie is about as random as winning the lottery, or maybe it’s not.
There is one thing that can certainly be agreed on. The films that have the greatest financial success are the ones that are generally well advertised and liked by both critics and audiences alike.
For instance the upcoming film ‘The Adventures of Tin Tin’ is sure to be a smashing success at the box-office due to its wide reaching advertising campaign, positive reviews overseas and the fact that it’s a story that’s well known and has far reaching appeal. Throw director Steven Spielberg into the mix and you’re sure to have at the very least a 300 million dollar box-office success on your hands.
If this is the case, then it is safe to assume, that the opinion of the critic has been severely diminished over the past couple decades.  There is still a place for critics during the months of November to January. It is during this time that the major Oscar contenders start being released in bunches. For some reason most people are more willing to watch a film that a critic praises as Oscar worthy. In this way critics are useful at bringing people to the box-office during the holiday season and Oscar contenders often times may need that extra added push. –Lucas Ayoub
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