Leonard Maltin on Why He's Retiring His Beloved Annual Movie Guides
It’s the end of an era for film buffs: Leonard Maltin, the critic whose movie guides have been a cineaste staple for more than forty years, has announced that the Leonard Maltin’s 2015 Movie Guide (to be released next month) will be his last. The news first appeared on a blog post Monday by film writer Joe Leydon, and was confirmed by Maltin to Yahoo Movies this morning.
Leydon quoted Maltin’s explanation from his advance copy of the guide, which will be available Sept. 2: “With ready access to information on the Internet, our readership has diminished at an alarming rate… The book’s loyal followers know that we strive to offer something one can’t easily find online: curated information that is accurate and user-friendly, along with our own reviews and ratings… But when a growing number of people believe that everything should be free, it’s impossible to support a reference book that requires a staff of contributors and editors.”
As Maltin told us, the reasoning behind his decision was disappointing, but simple: “It was no longer economically feasible to do it. That sounds very cold-blooded, but it couldn’t sustain itself financially. That says it all, really.” The film critic and historian, who said the series was compiled by a staff of 12 contributors and editors, added that the movie guide was “running at a bit of a loss for the past few years, but I didn’t want to give it up… I’ve been doing this my entire adult life, and that’s literal, not figurative.”
Maltin, 63, launched his capsule movie review guide in 1969 as TV Movies; it’s changed names over the decades, ultimately becoming Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, and became an annual release in 1986. This year’s installment — the 35th overall — is a 1,600-page opus featuring nearly 16,000 reviews. Maltin said he writes roughly half of the reviews, though he also edits the book, and joked, “If you like the review, I wrote it, and if you don’t like the review, it’s not mine.”
Maltin has no plans to follow in the footsteps of his late colleague Roger Ebert, who made all of his reviews available on his official site, noting that the short-form content doesn’t translate well to the digital space. “The difference is that Roger Ebert wrote full-length essays. These are capsules,” he said. “And I think they live best in the medium for which they were intended. There has always been a problem with conceptualizing this as an online entity by itself.