This past Sunday we read an alarming column by The New York Times‘ David Carr – alarming, that is, if you happen to be the New York Times, or if you rely on critics to avoid being duped.
“…12 movies in the first three months of the year bypassed critics, compared with just two last year. Since then, ‘Silent Hill’ took the stealth route to a weekend box-office victory, and last week, even though critics didn’t see ‘See No Evil,’ plenty of filmgoers did. Some movies have been labeled critic-proof, but vast swaths of the industry now seem interested in heading to the market without being turned over with a pointy stick…The shrinking list of movies scheduled for review is just one more indication that the long marriage between print and film seems to have hit a midlife crisis. Historically, the movie business has supplied stars and stories for newspapers â€” not to mention almost $1 billion a year in advertising â€” and newspapers returned the favor by promoting and reviewing movies when they came out.”
Not that this should come as any shock to newspapers, who’ve seen their advertising lunch eaten by online outlets in recent years. But the idea that newspapers can have any effect on a film at all is one that might be going the way of the Dodo. We’re reminded of an old, Depression-era carnival trick in which gullible townspeople would be relieved of a nickel a piece, then hustled into a tent which promised to reveal a “man-eating chicken.” Five cents lighter, the credulous hayseeds would be infuriated to discover a man, on stage, eating chicken. Nothing more.
It’s a trick you could play once on a town, but never more than once. We wonder how many more “man-eating chickens,” er, “man, eating chickens” Hollywood has in store for us townsfolk this summer.