"Here's the gospel on The Da Vinci Code: It's a total snore." - Detroit News
"The most controversial thriller of the year turns out to be about as exciting as watching your parents play Sudoku." - Washington Post
"How can a film contain so many clues yet remain utterly clueless?" - Chicago Tribune
"Plodding, tedious, deathly dull." - Philadelphia Inquirer
"A melodramatic, sometimes lifeless film." - USA Today
The newspaper critics hated it. The public loves it. What would you think if you were a Hollywood exec? Who needs the critics, right?
That's David Carr's point today in his New York Times column - Hollywood is increasingly skipping the traditional pre-screening of movies for press critics because it sees the Web as a more powerful, more influential tool to attract movie audiences. The bad news for newspapers is not just the dissing of their (usually) well-paid critics, but the accompanying loss of ad money.
Hollywood spends $1 billion a year on newspaper advertising, Carr says, but more and more of that money is headed elsewhere - most to the Net. He reports:
"The industry cut back newspaper advertising last year - down $60 million compared with the year previous - the first time in five years, according to TNS Media Intelligence, a market research firm."
(TNS also reported that general retail advertising, upon which newspapers depend heavily - those big department store ads - fell 1.1 percent in 2005, a year in which the overall ad spend rose 3 percent. Overall advertising spending on newspapers did rise last year, but only 1.1 percent - less than the rate of inflation - while spending on cable TV and Internet advertising grew 11.4 and 13.3 percent, respectively.)
Enough numbers. You get the point. A core newspaper advertiser - the Hollywood entertainment complex - is increasingly seeing newspapers as irrelevant to its primary business: Filling theater seats.
This is the issue newspapers face on all fronts: Relevancy. The competition for audience is not about news, not about the quality of journalism, not even about whether the great unwashed cares more about Branjelina than global warming, but the relevancy of the medium to the lives people lead.
And, the battleground for that competition is digital.
As recently as 2001, a year after some of the biggest companies in Hollywood formed Fandango, the theater ticket direct seller that bypasses a consumer's need to look in a newspaper for movie locations and times, the newspaper industry still had its head buried in a bucket of buttered popcorn about entertainment advertising dollars. Here's Presstime magazine, the house organ of the Newspaper Association of America, reporting on a panel at the group's annual convention:
"The idea that newspaper movie advertising is becoming obsolete was reduced to an unsubstantiated myth."
Uh-huh. Sure. Yeah, that's right. Compare that with this item from Carr's column:
"Back when he first took hold of the newly formed AOL Time Warner, Steve Case talked of a holy grail in which companies could open movies without buying significant print ads. That never came to pass, but now a new division of Fox Film Entertainment aimed at teenagers, Fox Atomic, will produce eight films a year with a print budget of exactly zero."
Print advertising for newspapers will soon be reduced to ego-feeding posters that celebrate awards season. The message is clear: The conversation about entertainment - just as the one about news - has moved on while newspapers stood still. Influence - and relevance - today belongs to those enable (and guide) conversation, not to those who tell everyone else what to think.
Credit: Opening blurbs via Rotten Tomatoes.Posted by Tim Porter at May 29, 2006 09:19 AM