The Economics of Movie Reviews, or Why So Many Film Critics Continue to Lose Their Jobs by Dustin Rowles at Pajiba
Responding to a tweet suggesting that film critics lose their jobs because of the corporate greed rather than lack of talent, Dustin Rowles gives some helpful perspective from the point of view of an independent publisher, pointing out how unprofitable reviewing in and of itself actually is and that Pajiba itself makes most of its revenue off listicles and news. It’s a bit different for a big publication, probably, but it’s something I hadn’t really thought of before, that on a post by post basis, reviews are likely among the lowest. Of course, I’m no big review reader myself, and in fact am starting to wonder how worthwhile weekly new release reviewing is at all, which adds yet another dimension to this discussion.
While the art of film criticism is still very much appreciated, and on some outlets such as The Dissolve, appreciated enough presumably to turn a profit, for many of us, film reviews are a money loser. Reviews of those smaller, independent and art films that no one watches are particularly money-losers, even though they need reviews the most because, in many cases, it’s the most promotion they will get. In fact, I can give you the exact figures for Pajiba: Of the 200+ reviews published during the past year, only 21 actually generated enough page views to pay for themselves.
In a Country Without a Culture of Film Criticism, Its Value Is Clear by Celluloid Liberation Front at Indiewire
On the other hand, as I become more and more disillusioned by reviewing, here’s a place that doesn’t have a critical culture at all, whether reviewing or the more in-depth criticism that I prefer. Kenya barely has a film industry, and it seems they have even less of a way to talk about it. Interestingly, I’m starting to read (again) Phillip Lopate’s anthology American Movie Criticism, and he mentions in the introduction that almost all of the American critics surveyed agreed that trying to improve filmmaking through their reviews was not a primary purpose of the critic; here, nearly all of the Kenyan men and women in the criticism course believe part of their mission as critics is to improve Kenyan films. I suppose that’s the difference between a well-established and an emergent film industry, but I find the distinction fascinating.
Hair straighteners and bleaching creams, though, cannot wipe out the long-suppressed need for self-representation, the necessity to create and debate autonomous images — to give voice to the voiceless. There is a collateral effect to this legitimate enthusiasm for anything that finally turns locals from depicted objects into depicting subjects, namely the tendency to be overly generous and not critical enough when it comes to Kenyan films. The other, related problem is that the standards to which local filmmakers aspire, audiences are accustomed to and critics refer to are limited to mainstream American cinema. In Kenya, the idea of what constitutes a valid film is, in other words, gauged against Hollywood’s most commercial output.