Do film critics matter anymore?
This is a question I ask every time I read a review by the Times‘ Steve Persall. Not that his reviews are noticeably good or bad, just that there is so much more interesting information about a movie available online.
At the same time, there’s really nothing about the local film critics’ job that is tied to his geography (except, for example, earth-shattering stories like Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens start filming ‘Spring Breakers’ on St. Pete Beach). This is unlike most other critics, such as those who cover the arts or restaurants, whose beats are tied to their locations.
Jonathan Kirshner, reviewing a collection of books on the ’70s heyday of critics like Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael, thinks movie critics no longer matter for another reasont:
The blockbuster model was … a terrible blow to the critical enterprise. With movies opening everywhere at once, aggressively marketed and highly dependent on the first few weeks of box-office receipts, filmmakers and viewers relied little on the opinions and influence of serious critics. The relationship between the movies and their audiences was changing.
Whatever the reason for the demise of the film critic, if I were the executive editor of a newspaper, the first reporter who’d be re-assigned during any downsizing, would be the local version of Roger Ebert.
And while I was at it, I’d divvy up the free passes to the movie previews to the rest of the staff.