I think this is the third Tumblr post I’ve seen today remarking on Roger Ebert’s review of Synecdoche, NY. Which is interesting, sort of, because that review is over three weeks old.
The criticism industry is so obsessed with publishing the week of release, as if the sole purpose of our writing is to get readers into the theater opening weekend. And given the average theatrical lifespan of a speciality release these days, opening weekend totals *do* matter. But it’s becoming ever more apparent that it’s wrong to assume that the average consumer of serious film and/or serious criticisim is working on the same schedule.
Film reviews, though readily available online no matter what their original source, aren’t compatible with ways most people consume information on the internet. Real film criticism (not yay-or-nay consumer reporting or thinly veiled advertorial) can’t compete with listicles and funny videos for space on the periphery of the average person’s work day attention. The traffic numbers of every site I’ve ever worked for bear this out: reviews are routinely amongst our least-visited posts — but they often attract the most comments. There is a core audience of about 1000 cinephiles who can be counted on to regularly read reviews, and these readers are invested enough in both film and criticism to directly engage.
For everyone else, review consumption, like grown-up, non-blockbuster film consumption, seems to be spreading out on an infinitely long tail. With indies sometimes taking months to roll out to even biggish markets and the majority of adults consuming the majority of their media away from the movie theater (see the chart that accompanied Tony Scott’s story in the NYT Magazines’ Screens issue), a review becomes something that is stumbled on or sought out for any number of reasons, but rarely if ever the main motivator to the purchase of a movie ticket.