Film editor Ben Kenigsberg and film critic A.A. Dowd are done at Time Out Chicago. Dowd’s last day was yesterday; Kenigsberg’s is Friday when he finishes the current print issue of the magazine, due out on stands on April 18th.
This is sad but not entirely surprising news. From everything I’ve read, the writing has been on the wall for many at Time Out Chicago since late March, when it was reported that the magazine had been acquired by Time Out Group, the company that owns and operates the Time Out publications in London, New York, Paris, and Los Angeles. Since its launch in March of 2005, TOC had been, like many of the other Time Out magazines around the world, operated as a franchise. Last month, the owners of TOC sold it back to Time Out Group for a reported $4 million.
At the time, TOC media critic Robert Feder wrote on his blog that the “new owners will cease publication of the 55,000-circulation weekly print edition next month and continue only the digital version of Time Out Chicago” and that most of the magazine’s 60 employees would lose their jobs (Feder himself has since accepted a buyout and left TOC). Then yesterday, this tweet appeared in Dowd’s feed:
“Effectively immediately, I am no longer the film critic for @TimeOutChicago. I’m proud & grateful for the two years I spent at the magazine.”
My first thought at that point was of Kenigsberg, a critic at Time Out Chicago since 2006, and its film editor since 2011 (Dowd joined him in March 2011). Ben and I go back to our days interning together at The Village Voice; he’s brought me in to freelance for TOC on numerous occasions. So I contacted him, mentioned Dowd’s tweet, and asked about his own status at TOC. His only comment:
“My last day is Friday. [A.A. Dowd]’s was yesterday. I’m immensely proud of the work we’ve done. It’s been an amazing not-quite-seven years at Time Out Chicago.”
Among the TOC film department’s more notable recent accomplishments was its campaign, initiated in an article by Kenigsberg, petitioning The Weinstein Company to screen Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” in 70mm at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre (and it worked, too). I know Kenigsberg and the entire TOC staff also prided themselves on the comprehensiveness of their coverage of the massive Chicago International Film Festival — reviewing an incredible 60 titles in a single week, for example, to help their readers decide what movies to target at the fest.
What this means for the future of film coverage at Time Out Chicago — print, digital, or otherwise — remains to be seen. Kenigsberg wouldn’t comment on the status of the film department beyond next week. I’ve reached out to several members of the staffs of Time Out Chicago and Time Out North America for comment on their plans for film coverage at TOC; so far, I haven’t heard anything back. If I do, I will update this post with whatever they provide. In the meantime, you can read their blog post entitled “Changes at Time Out Chicago,” which promises an improved website and a mobile app that “will bring all of Time Out Chicago‘s reviews, features, and event listings to your fingertips” but doesn’t specify what kind of reviews readers can expect, or who will be writing them.