×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Blogs Grow Up and Go Corporate

When studios hit Comic-Con next month to talk up “Justice League” movies, “Avengers” spinoffs and “Star Wars” sequels, they won’t be pitching their wares just to the costumed fans in Hall-H. They’ll be dissecting how their presentations play with blogs like Slashfilm, CinemaBlend and Film School Rejects.

How times have changed, both for Comic-Con and the people who cover it obsessively. The San Diego gathering was once viewed as a safe space for nerddom, at a time when geeking out over Captain America and Superman was viewed as a sign of arrested development. Over the past decade, though, comicbook culture has become the dominant form of popular entertainment, and like Comic-Con itself, film blogs have gone mainstream.

This year, three widely read blogs — Collider, Screen Rant and Latino Review — sold to deep-pocketed buyers Complex Media, Valnet, and former Chrysler and Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli, respectively. Meanwhile, more orthodox publications, such as Entertainment Weekly, have moved toward intensive coverage of superhero news.

“We won,” said Drew McWeeny, a blogger who wrote for Ain’t It Cool News before moving to HitFix. “The nerds took over.”

There’s a downside to social acceptance. In the early days, sites like Ain’t It Cool News were Internet renegades, posting reviews of scripts before they went into production, sharing purloined set photos, and reporting on test screenings well before studio-sanctioned embargoes had lifted. But studios that once viewed these sites as nuisances now see them as essential ambassadors. In turn, bloggers benefit from a powerful weapon — access, via set visits, promotional materials and media-screening invites.

That, and legal threats, have sanded off some of the blogs’ rougher edges, observers argue. “They were scared of us,” McWeeny said. “Now, they have absorbed us. They’ve co-opted and utterly won over the people they were afraid of by offering them the constant IV drip that keeps headlines generated and SEO bait flowing.”

Nobody goes into blogging to get rich. Editors on some movie sites earn $25,000 to $70,000 a year, and many freelancers have to contend with as little as $25 a post, if they get paid at all. And though a successful site can sell for more than $3 million and make $50,000 in ad revenue a month, many owners struggle to keep the lights on. Take Gordon and the Whale, a well-regarded site that closed its doors in 2011, when the roughly $1,200 to $1,300 it generated in advertising revenue monthly barely covered the $900 it was shelling out to run its server.

“I was at Cannes, and it hit me that we had gone about as far as we can go,” said Chase Whale, the site’s co-founder. “There was still no money. We had like 21 people writing for free, and it made me feel like sh-t that I couldn’t pay these people.”

For those still toiling in the trenches, it’s more difficult to stand out from the armies of pundits who keep cropping up.

“If I was starting a movie blog now, I probably wouldn’t do it,” said Neil Miller, the founder of Film School Rejects. “It’s so hard to be noticed, especially if you don’t offer clickbaits and salacious headlines.”

Major media companies including Gawker and the Los Angeles Times have snapped up or launched their own blogs, and their financial heft gives them a certain competitive advantage. “It’s a struggle to compete against corporate networks, because they can throw money at a problem while we can’t,” said Peter Sciretta, editor-in-chief of Slashfilm, which remains independently owned.

Although the majority of sites stick with an editorial mix of film reviews, interviews and looks at trailers and posters, some are making headway with breaking news. Take Umberto Gonzalez, a former Latino Review contributor who recently launched his own site, Heroic Hollywood. He’s built a reputation as an ace scooper responsible for casting exclusives on projects like “Suicide Squad” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

“I’m breaking content, and they’re putting a spin on the news that other sites break,” Gonzalez said of his rivals.

What prompted Steven Weintraub, the founder of Collider, to join forces with Complex Media was a feeling that he needed more resources in order to get to the next level. The sale means Complex will handle the business side and ad sales, as well as offer Weintraub editing support for the videos he records with filmmakers and talent.

“The last couple of years, when we were operating like a real business with real overhead, were stressful,” Weintraub said. “This allows me to remove that stress and focus on producing content seven days a week.”

Still, while their sector of the media business experiences consolidation, some bloggers sound torn about whether or not to sell.

“Before I started Film School Rejects, I’d never really done anything significant,” said Miller, whose site remains independently owned. “The relationship I’ve had with my film blog is the longest and most significant of my life. To give that up would take more in my mind than what anyone is willing to pay.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the asking price for Screen Rant.

More Biz

  • U2, Seattle 14 May 2017

    U2 Drop New Song, ‘Ahimsa,’ Ahead of First Concert in India

    After a flurry of rumors on Thursday, U2 dropped their first single in two years: “Ahimsa,” a collaboration with Oscar- and Grammy-winning Indian musician AR Rahman, ahead of the group’s first-ever visit to the country next month. Rahman has a vast track record of film soundtracks and is best known for his work on the [...]

  • Sean "Diddy" Combs Revolt TV

    Sean Combs Slams 'Illusion of Economic Inclusion' at Comcast Amid Byron Allen Fight

    Sean Combs has come out swinging against Comcast in a lengthy statement prompted by the cable giant’s legal battle with Entertainment Studios chief Byron Allen. Combs accused Comcast of maintaining “the illusion of economic inclusion” in its handling of a carriage agreement with Combs’ Revolt TV channel. Combs was critical of Comcast for failing to [...]

  • Bon Iver Justin Vernon Grammys

    Bon Iver, Tanya Tucker, Thom Yorke Lead Indie Labels to 44% of Grammy Nominations

    Ever since Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” won Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammy Awards, independent labels have seen their star rise on “Music’s Biggest Night,” and that looks set to continue at the 2020 ceremony, where Bon Iver, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Yola, Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, Elvis Costello and others have gotten big [...]

  • US Capitol

    Congress Introduces AM-FM Act to Revise Copyright Law for Terrestrial Radio

    Senator Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Jerrold Nadler today introduced the Ask Musicians for Music Act (AM-FM), which aims to revise existing copyright law for radio stations and musicians. Under the current copyright system, radio stations can use sound recordings over their airwaves without paying royalties to creators who own a stake in the sound recordings. [...]

  • Harriet Tubman Cynthia Erivo

    AMC Theatres Fires Three Employees Over Racial Profiling Incident During 'Harriet' Screening

    AMC Theatres has fired three employees in one of its Louisiana multiplexes after an incident during a screening of “Harriet.” An African American women’s group called the 504 Queens allege that 15 members were racially profiled while watching “Harriet” at AMC’s Clearview Palace 12 in Metairie on Nov. 7. A letter sent from the organization’s [...]

  • Byron Allen

    Byron Allen's Discrimination Suit Against Comcast Should Be Allowed to Move Forward

    More than anything, the Supreme Court justices seemed bemused. Comcast executives and entrepreneur Byron Allen came to the nation’s high court on Nov. 13 to duke it out over the racial discrimination case that Allen’s Entertainment Studios has pursued since 2015.  But the question put before the court was a narrow issue of legal precedent [...]

  • Christine Baranksi Karey Burke Coutney Kemp

    Christine Baranski, Karey Burke and Courtney Kemp Set for Brandon Tartikoff Awards

    Christine Baranski, “Power” creator and showrunner Courtney Kemp and ABC Entertainment chief Karey Burke are among the five recipients set for the 2020 Brandon Tartikoff Awards, to be handed out in January as part of the annual NATPE conference in Miami. Jeff Zucker, chairman of news and sports for WarnerMedia and president of CNN Worldwide, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content