As the keeper of a blog covering the world of film and TV criticism it’s often fallen to me to break bad news. But for both personal and professional reasons, this might be the worst: The Dissolve’s editorial director, Keith Phipps, posted this morning that the site is shutting down effective immediately.
For the past two years — well, two years this Friday — it’s been our pleasure to put up this site, a site founded on and driven by a love for movies, alongside a company with passion and talent for creating thoughtful, important work. Sadly, because of the various challenges inherent in launching a freestanding website in a crowded publishing environment, financial and otherwise, today is the last day we will be doing that. We’ve had this opportunity thanks to Pitchfork, which has been incredibly supportive of our vision. We couldn’t have asked for a better partner.
On his personal blog, Editor Scott Tobias wrote:
Thank you to all the freelancers, past and present, who made The Dissolve what it was. There are dozens of you, too many for me to name here, but one of our missions as a site was to break new talent and give veteran writers an opportunity to do their best work. On that front, we succeeded beyond our wildest expectations, and we were proud and honored to give a platform to so many remarkable voices.
Thank you to the readers, who validated our vision for the site from Day One. We wanted to create “a playground for movie lovers,” where cinematic omnivores like ourselves could have a place to analyze and argue about movies and share our enthusiasm for the form. And readers carried that spirit into the comment boards, which were simply the best I’ve ever experienced on the Internet—thoughtful, respectful, funny, and a world unto itself.
Since July of 2013, The Dissolve has consistently been home to some of the most engaging and thought-provoking writing on the ‘net, which is to say, anywhere. We’re careful not to overload Criticwire’s Daily Reads feature with links from any one source, but The Dissolve made it tough: There were days when we could easily have given every spot to something from the site and still left plenty behind.
I was fortunate enough to be one of the first writers contacted about writing for The Dissolve, while it was still a gleam in several soon-to-be-former A.V. Club staffers’ eyes, and though starting at Criticwire weeks before they launched meant I was never able to contribute as much as I wanted, I did several pieces for them I’m enormously proud of — and, more importantly, work I couldn’t have published anywhere else.
What The Dissolve published was more important than what they didn’t, but it’s worth noting, with more than a touch of sorrow, what they steered clear of: hot takes, superhero news, clickbait, even TV coverage. They stayed true to their principles, and it’s hard to avoid the feeling that they paid a price for it.
But if the history of journalism teaches us anything, it’s that (almost) nothing lasts. With exceptions as rare as hen’s teeth, venues for great writing either burn bright and burn out or else become corrupted and lose their force. Slash magazine is inextricable from the history of Los Angeles punk, but they only published for three years, shutting down just as some of the bands they covered were hitting it big. What matters is the work, and making it matter as long as it lasts. There’s no question that The Dissolve’s staff — Phipps, Scott Tobias, Tasha Robinson and Genevieve Koski — will go on to more great things, just as former staffer Nathan Rabin has blazed a trail through a dozen freelance outlets since his departure. The rest of us will have their work to look back on.
I got to spend two years doing the best work of my career alongside people I love. Today is not a sad day for me. It’s a bittersweet one.
— Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) July 8, 2015
Goodbye, friend. You were the best thing I’ve ever done. http://t.co/pUwEjImQDS
— Genevieve Koski (@GenevieveKoski) July 8, 2015
Getting my teeth scraped at the periodontist this morning was the second most painful thing I’ve experienced over the past 24 hours.
— Noel Murray (@NoelMu) July 8, 2015
This has been a daily read for me, very sorry to see it go. https://t.co/Wr8kzdPfgp
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) July 8, 2015
— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) July 8, 2015
Fuck everything.The End https://t.co/bjg0MgybHL
— Mary Beth Williams (@embeedub) July 8, 2015
I have read every story The Dissolve has published since it started. (I even read the comments!) Gut punched. http://t.co/ng9RorNrQl
— Will Leitch (@williamfleitch) July 8, 2015
— Tim Grierson (@TimGrierson) July 8, 2015
(That sound you hear with the end of The Dissolve is punctured fantasies that being talented enough and working hard enough means security.)
— Linda Holmes (@nprmonkeysee) July 8, 2015
The most crushing part about The Dissolve closing is the proof that a bunch of smart people writing about film isn’t sustainable.
— Bon Champion (@bonchampion) July 8, 2015
The Dissolve is shutting down, at the height of its game. Unbelievable. Didn’t even get a long, slow decline when we could slowly hate it.
— Bilge Ebiri (@BilgeEbiri) July 8, 2015
— Carrie Rickey (@CarrieRickey) July 8, 2015
The Dissolve published great writers on great films and didn’t care if release was last Friday or 1920. So sad to see it go.
— Farran Nehme (@selfstyledsiren) July 8, 2015
In the future, all film criticism will be press release copy and paste of Star Wars, Marvel, and Minions movies.
— Peter Labuza (@labuzamovies) July 8, 2015
The Dissolve was a model of what film writing can be: smart, passionate, unique, and confident. We will all feel its loss.
— Brian Tallerico (@Brian_Tallerico) July 8, 2015
The Dissolve paid me actual money to write a thousand words about a single shot from a Godard movie. Clearly, there’s nothing else like it.
— Calum Marsh (@calummarsh) July 8, 2015
The Dissolve was my favorite outlet to write for, my favorite outlet to read. The film world is just so much worse off without it.
— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) July 8, 2015
.@thedissolve will be one of those legendary pubs like Spy Magazine. Those who read it will never stop talking about how great it was.
— Scott Meslow (@scottmeslow) July 8, 2015
Clearly, the world of smart film writing is in desperate need of its own Megan Ellison. Possibly, the actual @meganeellison.
— Ryan Godfrey (@rgodfrey) July 8, 2015
Very sorry to hear about the end of @thedissolve, a home for smart and thoughtful movie writing. May all their contributors find good homes.
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) July 8, 2015
The Dissolve is the #2 trending topic in New York City, #4 in America. WHERE WERE ALL YALL BEFORE!??!?!
— Jordan Hoffman (@jhoffman) July 8, 2015
I just know we’re going to be seeing more work from the great writers @thedissolve — I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.
— David Hudson (@dwhtwit) July 8, 2015
@thedissolve, one of the smartest sites for talking/thinking/arguing about films, is dissolving. A real shame — some great voices there.
— Ty Burr (@tyburr) July 8, 2015
@thedissolve thank you and farewell
— Trevor Groth (@trevorgroth) July 8, 2015
— Asher Gelzer-Govatos (@ashergelzer) July 8, 2015
Sorry to hear of @thedissolve going off the grid. Always challenging and intelligent stuff there.
— Glenn Kenny (@Glenn__Kenny) July 8, 2015
What I really admired about The Dissolve was its ambition. It was cultural journalism aiming for definitive takes, not just hot ones. Sigh.
— Jason Zinoman (@zinoman) July 8, 2015
Sad to see @thedissolve go. The outlet took chances on new writers and published thoughtful pieces longer than, you know, 400 words.
— cléo journal (@cleojournal) July 8, 2015
I guess probably I just won’t read about movies anymore.
— Rob Wesley (@eastwes) July 8, 2015