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Do Print Critics really create box office stir?

June 25, 2009

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In Indiewire’s recent article on Film Financing Today, Ted Mundorff commented on the changing roles of traditional media and the film critic.

“We’re scared to death that critics have gone away. Wire services don’t cut it. Those reviews, the aggregators, just don’t do the same job as your local critic does in all the markets in the country. Currently, when a local critic reviews a film positively, there’s a spike in box office. I have never seen a spike in box office because of an online critic.”

As a local print critic, I have recently had the experience of seeing how my stories can effect local film events including having someone tell the filmmaker in front of me they hadn’t heard of the event until they saw an article in the Town.

But I wonder if this impact is true of larger box-office films? Does my saying I like “Up” really change someone’s opinion to go see it?

Despite my theory that leaned towards me having no impact, several readers actually said it can make a difference, especially when they are undecided on whether to see something during opening weekend, later in the theatrical run or wait until renting.

But, they don’t just rely on their local print critic. Most of the readers I asked check with several sources including aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes, film bloggers and their most important source: friends.

To be honest, this notion that the online critic cannot make an impact seems an archaic thought that is no longer relevant. In fact, for print critics, the internet has become a great secondary source to share work with non-subscribers either in their own cities or outside of them.

HOWEVER, the key question is this – is the role of the film critic, online or print, to boost box office? I am divided on this. On one hand, if I can help push a small indie film to be seen by more people, I am all for it. But, I don’t feel my role is to be a marketing tool for studios. I review so that I can show the strength and weakness of any film and what (if anything) it says about society.

What are your thoughts? What sources do you check when deciding on a movie? Do you check reviews after you see a movie or before?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2009 5:56 pm

    I think a person can make a comment, as Mundorff did, that online critics don’t boost box office because that’s a factor that’s much harder to quantify than matching local critical response to local box office.

    But to answer some of your questions, first, I don’t think it’s a critic’s role to boost box office, even in cases when the critic would like to, e.g. your example about championing indie films. It’s the critic’s role to boost film in general, not specific films. Critics write about films because they love the medium, that’s why they point out it’s flaws, like the way a person should point out to a friend that using heroin is ruining his life because you’d like that friend to lead a better, more fulfilling life. And when they do, you tell them so.

    Also, I very rarely read reviews before a movie. I pick movies based either on director, actor, story, screenwriter and/or a general sense of buzz. Afterward I’ll read reviews to compare notes.

    • June 25, 2009 7:49 pm

      All good points especially that it is much harder to quantify online critics connection to the box office. I wonder though if anyone is trying? Anyone know of any resources?

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