Since 1969, "Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide" (originally known as "TV Movies") has been the home viewing companion for amateur and budding film buffs and families, giving short but effectives reviews of movies and even inspiring the popular "Leonard Maltin Movie Game" on "Doug Loves Movies" (which Maltin claims he is terrible at). But with the rise of the internet and the immediate availability of exhaustive information about any movie, it’s hard for movie guides to stay relevant, and it looks like Maltin’s venerable collection has finally reached its end.
In a blog post last night, Joe Leydon, critic for Variety and a contributor to Maltin’s guide, announced that the 2015 edition, due for release September 2, will be the last. He includes a forward by Maltin:
With ready access to information on the Internet, our readership has diminished at an alarming rate.
The book’s loyal followers know that we strive to offer something one can’t easily find online: curated information that is accurate and user-friendly, along with our own reviews and ratings.
But when a growing number of people believe that everything should be free, it’s impossible to support a reference book that requires a staff of contributors and editors.
Criticwire has reached out to Maltin for further comment.
It’s difficult to stress how valuable Maltin’s guide was in the pre-digital age. As part of the first generation to grow up with internet access as a teenager (and the last without it as a kid), I found the book enormously helpful for my film education. I’m sure plenty of movie-obsessed teenagers had heard of "Citizen Kane" before they got to high school, but without the extensive actor/director filmographies in Maltin’s index I probably wouldn’t have checked out "The Magnificent Ambersons" or "Touch of Evil" as early as I did, to cite just one example.
It was even more helpful in a time where cinephilia was less accessible and it took a stroke of luck to see something like "Two Lane Blacktop," which was long unavailable on home video. More experienced moviegoers might have had Danny Peary’s "Guide for the Film Fanatic" to reference, but those starting out had Maltin’s insistence that it was a "quintessential movie of its time" and that "[Warren] Oates’ performance is as good as you’ll ever see and should have had the Oscar."
As with any book of reviews, there were a good handful I balked at (said by every film fanatic ever: "Two stars for ‘Taxi Driver?!’ Whaaat?"). But there’s something to be said for someone who can succinctly communicate their thoughts and give a reader an idea of whether or not they’d like to see the movie in question, star-rating be damned.
There’s no word on whether Maltin’s guide will continue online: An app was created in 2009 but suspended earlier this year after Penguin Books and app creator Mobile Age couldn’t come to a new agreement. But Maltin continues writing as a blogger for Indiewire at Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy, so readers won’t be without his thoughts. And there’s still one more "Movie Guide" on the way for anyone who’s still sentimental for, instead of typing in an online database that they’ve seen a film, opening up a book and putting a big checkmark next to it.