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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: Does anyone still get movie times from newspapers?

The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander had readers howling in his in-box recently after the paper stopped running listings of movie showtimes. It wasn’t the Post’s choice, though:

Most readers believe that it was the newspaper’s decision, like The Post’s recent move to cut costs by making TV week an opt-in insert. In fact, movie listings in the print product are paid advertising, and it was AMC’s decision to stop paying.

(Multiplexes have been paying for those listings? I had no idea! I’ve never seen them marked as advertising…)

Now the Associated Press is on the story:

The top two U.S. chains, Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Inc., have begun in recent months to reduce or eliminate the small-type listings showing the start times for movies at individual theaters. Theaters typically must pay newspapers to print that information.

Looking to cut costs, the theater chains are instead directing consumers to their Internet sites or third-party sites, like Fandango, Moviefone or Flixster, which offer those listings for free and make money from the fees they charge for selling advance tickets to movies. Many of those sites also feature film reviews and movie trailers.

This will hurt newspapers, of course, but they’ve already rendered themselves irrelevant. I wouldn’t be paying to list anything in a newspaper that no one is reading anymore, especially when the same information is much easier to find and search online.

And readers have come to expect such listings. Seeing them curtailed or disappear could give them yet another reason to abandon their subscriptions. This seems like the least likely upshot of the move away from newspaper listings of movies:

[Mort Goldstrom, the Newspaper Association of America’s vice president of advertising] said the pullback in listings will hurt theaters by reducing their visibility among potential customers, sending those dollars to competitors that still buy listings or to other sources of entertainment like plays or clubs.

Ha. No. If I want to go see a movie, I’m not going to suddenly decide I’d rather go to a play or a club because my newspaper isn’t listing movie times. Is this guy serious?

The real question is: Does anyone still get movie times from newspapers?

I can’t remember the last time I looked at paper, period. Newspaper Web sites, sure, but a paper paper? Years, certainly. When I want to know what’s playing where, I check the Web. Who doesn’t?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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