February 27, 2006

Critical Mass

There was an interesting story last week- in the Duke student newspaper, of all places- summing up a new study which states that:

many film critics, faced with far too many movies to write about, tend to avoid writing reviews of bad films that they’ve seen. At the same time, a few critics, faced with the same overwhelming choice, tend to avoid reviewing good movies that they’ve watched.

As a result, moviegoers might infer the likely opinions of their favorite reviewers, even when those critics don’t actually write about a movie. The study will appear in the June 2006 issue of the journal Quantitative Marketing & Economics.

As a critic, I can see how flawed this study seems. For one thing, most critics are constrained from reviewing every movie- either they must share the load with a colleague, or are otherwise limited to reviewing only one movie a week. Then there's all the movies that aren't reviewed because they're not screened for critics.

In my case, I can tell you that the majority of my reviews are positive, because I'm allowed to choose which movies to see/review, and therefore I tend to avoid movies that I think I'm not going to like. The other dynamic at work is that it's both a lot easier and a lot more fun to write negative reviews than positive ones, and it's also more fun to read them. Roger Ebert's popular book "I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie" is Exhibit A in that respect- and speaking of Ebert, he wrote a letter to Romanesko, also taking issue with the study.

Posted by Stephen Silver at February 27, 2006 01:39 AM

If anything, I do not think Ebert is writing enough harsh reviews. Everything I've seen lately has 3 to 4 stars, which I know just can't be the real case.

Posted by: A at February 27, 2006 10:12 AM
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