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Why Even Movie Companies Need Critics


by Jerome Weeks 3 Oct 2008

From Variety: Tom Bernard, the veteran co-head of Sony Pictures Classics, has a theory about critics. He believes when critics in key communities are fired by their penny-pinching newspapers, it’s the movies that suffer – especially art movies. He feels he can statistically demonstrate that filmgoers learn to trust certain local critics and that, when […]

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From Variety:

Tom Bernard, the veteran co-head of Sony Pictures Classics, has a theory about critics. He believes when critics in key communities are fired by their penny-pinching newspapers, it’s the movies that suffer – especially art movies. He feels he can statistically demonstrate that filmgoers learn to trust certain local critics and that, when they leave, box office sags.

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  • Stephen Becker

    We can debate the level of influence that local movie critics have (I happen to still believe that they are vital), but I can tell you that Bernard’s feelings are shared by others in his position at smaller studios.
    Part of the reason that the local critic’s review is important is that in just about every city now, there is only one of them. Even the most energetic critic is only going to be able to review a max of about three films in a week when as many as 10 or 12 may actually debut. And what happens is, the reviews that the local critic writes are the ones that end up on the front page of the Arts section (no one buries their local content inside the section in favor of wire review).
    In effect, the locally written review for the smaller film can be the great equalizer in its battle with the big studio picture that has millions of dollars in advertising to spend to get its message out.
    This spring, I was in New York and I talked for a few minutes with Bernard’s partner at Sony Pictures Classics, Michael Barker (who’s from Dallas, incidentally). And I can tell you that he had a running mental list of which of his films the Dallas Morning News reviewed. He may not have been able to say if the review was positive or negative, but he knew if it got reviewed.

  • I don’t think any ad driven media reviews are fair.
    Inherent in them is this dilemma. They must support the major media conglomerates or they loose their advertising and go out of business. They always review the major films. Too often greater indie films from lesser studios get no reviews at all.
    It’s the worst review ever when you can’t get any review at all. For just about any film to make a profit , it must get a review.
    What we have now is Warners making the movie, distributing the movie, then reviewing its own movie in Warner magazines like Time or People. How can that be fair?
    What we need is a review service that is independent of any corporate sponsors, and that reviews all films without the pre-screening of who gets a review and who doesn’t, that goes on now.
    Internet sites like Rotten Tomatoes do fine. Loosing local critics that are locked into reviewing only major advertisers films, is no loss for me.