It’s hard out there for a critic

Has there ever been a worse time to be Roger Ebert or Ken Turan or Manohla Dargis? Not only are you now competing for attention with every schmuck who has a blog and an opinion, but the studios are increasingly realizing — probably correctly — they they don’t need you alot of the time.

As this Forbes.com commentary notes, picking up on an AP article from a few weeks ago, 11 movies so far this year weren’t screened for critics. And they were among the most succesful films of the year: “The Benchwarmers,” “Underworld: Evolution” and “Madea’s Family Reunion”. (There were also a few that failed even without the critics piling on, such as “Phat Girlz” and “Doogal.”)
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Why? Forbes.com explains:

But there have always been bad films, and critics always had their biases when it comes to genre. The tactic of skipping advance screenings is taking hold now because the dynamics of movie marketing and pre-release publicity have changed. Like other professional arbiters of taste, movie reviewers just don’t matter quite as much as they used to. Once upon a time, they were the point of origin for popular opinion. In an age of ratings Web sites and consumer-generated content, they are just one voice of many. Maybe a particularly authoritative voice, but no longer the popes they used to be.

For true indie movies, such as “Brokeback Mountain” and “Thank You for Smoking,” reviews are of course a key ingredient. But the studios have apparently figured out that they don’t have to submit to screening “Grandma’s Boy” in order to get some good buzz for “Capote.” In an age where many moviegoers see Roger Ebert as just another line on Rotten Tomatoes next to Steve Crum from Video-ReviewMaster.com, he’s not in a position to demand much.

Though if you ask me, any critic deranged enough to call the worst movies of 2006 the best movie of 2006 doesn’t have much more credibility than the Video Review Master.