In the clip above, noted film historian and critic Leonard Maltin talks about his esteemed “Movie Guide” ahead of the 2013 edition. Today came news that after 45 years the guide has reached the end of the road – due to declining sales numbers, it just isn’t possible to keep the guide alive in print anymore. According to a Deadline story (interestingly enough written by Pete Hammond who’s been a contributor to the guide for years), Maltin does not believe in an online future:
We were unable to find an effective way to monetize it on the internet. The iPhone app we had kind of fizzled too. The other answer though is these capsule reviews and capsulized information were meant to be in a paperback book. They were designed for this medium, for this format, and weren’t meant to be posted day and date with movie openings. The internet has a different imperative and a different set of rules. We could conceivably adjust, but simply putting the book online would not be wise.
He also adds that he loves the Internet as much as the next guy and points out that the printed guide doesn’t serve as much a function anymore as it used to do before the Internet.
He has a point – but yes, I’m one of many readers who will mourn the guide. It has to do with the fact that I’ve bought it faithfully ever since its 1992 edition. In fact, I even remember picking it up in my local book store the first time and I’ll buy the last edition when it comes out within a few weeks. I can only imagine what it will look like in say five years after constant use…
When I created this website I knew that IMDb and Wikipedia would be invaluable sources, but I also knew that they are unreliable to some extent. Anyone can log on there and make changes, for any reason. That’s the beauty and curse of those websites. The guide became the source I could always turn to for reliable information on cast and running times. It was obvious that a real person, and an educated, passionate one, was in charge of overseeing the material.
In other words, the best part of the guide, and in fact any newspaper, is that an editor helps the reader find out what matters and makes sure that it is relevant and factual. No one takes responsibility for this on websites like Wikipedia and IMDb. For many years, I was foolish enough to believe that this was enough to motivate the continued existence of Maltin’s guide, especially since it adapted to changing times… but I was wrong.
I owe Maltin a lot. When I created this website I decided that most films and TV shows should get brief, snappy reviews as in Maltin’s guide. But I also wanted to take advantage of the seemingly limitless space that the Internet provides and write longer reviews of films and TV shows that I wanted to talk more about. I’ll continue as I have in the past and wish Maltin the best. He’ll continue to write reviews on Indiewire… and who knows, maybe the guide will still find a future online?
Anyway. Thank you, Mr. Maltin.