does film criticism have a future?

As you may have already heard, film criticism site The Dissolve announced yesterday that it was shutting down, a mere two years after it was launched by former staffers of The A.V. Club. In his good-bye post, founder and editorial director Keith Phipps blamed “the various challenges inherent in launching a freestanding website in a crowded publishing environment, financial and otherwise” for the site’s demise.

The Dissolve was backed by Pitchfork Media, which is kind of a big deal, and had great traffic, as far as I can determine. So the site had corporate money backing it and (presumably) staffs dedicated to marketing, promotion, and ad sales… and it still wasn’t able to survive.

Meanwhile, all the many sites devoted to reposting every studio press release, and cheerleading every would-be blockbuster, and spreading every bit of rumor and gossip about who might get cast in some comic book movie that won’t even start shooting for three years? Those sites seem to be doing fine.

The Dissolve’s shutdown is very depressing news. If they couldn’t make it work, what hope is there for film criticism today?

share and enjoy
If you haven’t commented here before, your first comment will be held for MaryAnn’s approval. This is an anti-spam, anti-troll measure. If you’re not a spammer or a troll, your comment will be approved, and all your future comments will post immediately.
notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
view all comments
David C-D
David C-D
Fri, Jul 10, 2015 6:50am

That is indeed a loss. I’m sorry that I never heard of the Dissolve until the occasion of its demise.

On a tangent, while reading about the Dissolve I came across this lovely article looking at some of the positive directions in the representation of women on screen.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  David C-D
Fri, Jul 10, 2015 9:24am

I’m trying to raise expectations with Where Are the Women!

Sat, Jul 11, 2015 3:02pm

Not for the real thing…like MaryAnn provides. Sorry.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Beowulf
Sun, Jul 12, 2015 11:44am

So should I just stop now?

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sun, Jul 12, 2015 9:22pm


Sun, Jul 12, 2015 10:39pm

It’s a fungibility issue. Like hand-made shoes.

When all shoes are hand-made, a shoe-maker can let the cheap ones subsidise the expensive ones. When there are machine- or slave-made ultra-cheap shoes that are a “good enough” substitute, nobody buys hand-made cheap shoes any more, so the expensive ones get really expensive.

When the only film criticism (to a first approximation) was newspaper/magazine reviews, people who just wanted to know which processed film product they should see at the local megaplex had to read proper reviews and try to work out what was going on – so they bought newspapers. Now they can look at some mindless cheerleading site that’ll tell them “this is good, that’s bad” so they don’t subsidise the thoughtful criticism that the rest of us like.

I don’t have an answer to this other than “be prepared to pay more for thoughtful criticism”.

On a side note, I tried reading The Dissolve for a month or so, but nothing there ever really grabbed me.

Tonio Kruger
Mon, Jul 27, 2015 9:07am

Film criticism will always exist as long as people like to criticize movies.

It’s paid film criticism that is in trouble. Especially online paid film criticism.

On the bright side, Kathi Maio still has her job as film critic at the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction despite living in an era when print is supposed to be dead. And yet her career at that print magazine has lasted longer than that of several online film criticism sites that were allegedly the way of the future. Hmmm….