Variety lays an egg: Is firing its critics really 'economic reality'?

In showbiz, timing is everything. It could hardly be a coincidence that the morning after Oscar season mercifully came to a close, Variety laid off its two best-known critics, longtime chief film critic Todd McCarthy and chief theater critic David Rooney. According to Variety president Neil Stiles, the firings were an "economic reality."


You can say that again. As anyone who regularly reads the venerable trade paper has surely noticed, even at the height of Oscar season Variety has been thinner than most of the starlets who walked the red carpet Sunday night. In years past, the trade paper was so fat with ads in January and February that -- at least in my house -- a week-old copy of Variety was a perfect fly swatting machine, guaranteed to flatten the biggest house pest. But no more. Most of last week's issues of Variety wouldn't harm a flea.

Even with 10 films in the best picture race, the ads simply weren't plumping up the paper the way they had in the past. It was inevitable that Variety would once again have to find ways to cut costs, though it was definitely a shock to see the paper get rid of its top critics, especially McCarthy, who after the death of Army Archerd and the departure of former editor Peter Bart is easily the most iconic presence at the paper.

"I never saw this coming," McCarthy, who had been at Variety for 31 years, told me after the firing was announced.

Stiles acknowledged that Variety's Oscar ads were down this year, but as he told me this afternoon, the paper had seen that drop-off coming in advance. "We took action last year, making cuts last spring in anticipation of the revenue situation," he said. "There's no sense in trying to

03/08/2010 16:01

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