Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide Ending After 45 Years – Internet Kills Iconic Print Paperback

Another print icon bites the dust.

Leonard Maltin’s 2015 Movie Guide will be the final edition of this film lovers’ guide, which started in 1969 under the title TV MOVIES. But in recent ypete_hammond_300x100ears, the annual guide, which now numbers 1,611 pages and features nearly 16,000 capsule movie reviews, has become a victim of the changing times and the way information is consumed by a new generation. The new edition, which comes out Sept. 2, is the last, bad news for many industry-ites and film lovers who used it religiously.

“An entire generation has been raised to acquire all their information online from their mobile devices or computers,” Maltin told me this morning. “These are not the likely customers for a physical paperback reference book. Our sales have sharply declined in recent years.”

The virtual death of bookstores likely didn’t help the cause either. “We still have a loyal readership,” Maltin said. “It’s just smaller than it used to be. There are an awful lot of people who have been loyal to the book and are used to having it on their night stand or their coffee table for years and years and years.  Some bought it sporadically and some bought it every year and God bless them.”

515EzkVMBOL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_With the recent near-death of film stock, a print book largely covering movies made in that medium is probably, ironically, and sadly, an anachronism.

And the Internet with sites like Internet Movie Database, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and their ilk has taken over the sector so why not join them with an online version of the book? Maltin says it all came down to money.

“We were unable to find an effective way to monetize it on the Internet,” he said. “The iPhone app we had kind of fizzled too. The other answer, though, is these capsule reviews and capsulized information were meant to be in a paperback book. They were designed for this medium, for this format, and weren’t meant  to be posted day and date with movie openings. The Internet has a different imperative and a different set of rules. We could conceivably adjust, but simply putting the book online would not be wise,” he said.

Maltin said that he, like everyone else, is an avid user of the web. “It’s a fantastic tool. I don’t have my head in the sand about this. We served a real purpose for several MV5BMjAzOTcxMDA2Nl5BMl5BcG5nXkFtZTcwMTc1MzIzOA@@__V1_decades when there was no other source and I have had tremendous feedback and continue to get tremendous feedback from people who grew up on this book including a lot of filmmakers,”  he said.

Director Noah Baumbach told Maltin he grew up with the book and actually referenced it in his 2010 film Greenberg. When someone asks the morose Ben Stiller how he’s doing, Stiller answers ‘okay’ and guesses “Leonard Maltin would give him two stars.”

Once Were Warriors director Lee Tamahori told Maltin, “I am thrilled to just be on the same page as Once Upon A Time In The West.”  Alexander Payne said  a review in the Guide meant the most to him because it was “for the ages.” Maltin says Billy Bob Thornton told him he spotted a copy for sale once in the Singapore Airport and it made him feel like there was a touch of home. In fact the Guide is sold around the world and untitledhas been translated into Italian and Swedish, among other languages.

Maltin was just a high school senior in the Spring of 1968 when a teacher, impressed by his self-published fan magazine called Film Fan Monthly, introduced him to an editor friend at Signet Books. The publisher (now PenguinRandomHouse) was looking to create a rival to Stephen Scheuer’s Movies On TV. After hearing the teenage Maltin’s ideas about how to do it, he was hired on the spot, but the editor didn’t tell anyone he was putting a 17-year-old in charge.

There were no plans for a series of books then and a new edition didn’t arrive for five years, and a third didn’t come for another four years.  In 1978 it became biannual, then, in 1986, an annual rite of early Fall. It was around that time that my then-Entertainment Tonight colleague Maltin a51RuR5KlkML__SX258_BO1,204,203,200_sked me to start contributing reviews to the book, which I have done ever since. Right from the beginning, Maltin knew he had to hire people to pull this project off.

“It was never going to be a one-person job but we have had largely the same production team over the years,” he said. Of all the capsule reviews I have done, my favorite remains one from 1989 for Police Academy 6: City Under Siege. In it I 9780452295773Hwrote, “This entry is only – repeat only –  for those who thought Police Academy 5 was robbed at Oscar time.”

I gave that film a BOMB rating but the guide also allowed scores of anything from four stars to one and a half stars. Maltin says Oliver Stone once reminded him of the one and a half stars he gave to his movie The Hand  in 1981.

The book became so big and loaded with material and titles that there was talk about splitting it into two volumes, but that wasn’t practical. Instead, a companion Classic Movie Guide was created in 2005. A third edition of that book is now planned for 2015. It features many genuine classics but also B movies, silents and others that could no longer fit into the regular guide. There are more than 300 new entries in the new final edition of the latter. Time moves on, but Maltin says, “Thanks for the memories.

“You can’t complain about a 45-year run. I would be a fool to be ungrateful for such a great, long-lasting success and so many devoted readers,”  said Maltin.

  1. ……books are still quicker and easier to use than internet ! ! ! ……and no batteries required ! ! ! …….

  2. Now, this is extremely sad news. Maltin’s guide is the most comprehensive – no, definitive – book on movies. I have been using the book as a reference, since I began reviewing and rating movies in 1988. Hell, I even read (that’s right, read) one of his editions from cover to cover, listing in an index file every film that I intended to see, whether or not it was available on homevideo.

    I met Maltin a couple of times at book fairs, always disappointed that he was only signing an older version, as the new one was just a month or two away from release.

    I recall being frustrated as the book grew and Maltin had to eliminate a lot of made-for-TV movies as well as classics to accommodate all the new theatrical releases. So, I still have my original 1988 edition, along with other select editions, as many significant (to me) titles are missing from the later editions. My poor 1988 edition is so worn, it split in two.

    It was also fun to call out Maltin on errors made within the book, especially when the synopsis/review seemed to be written by someone who hadn’t actually seen the film being reviewed or who thought they were writing a review for a different title. But this was not a common occurrence and could be forgiven, considering the vast amount of material contained in the book.

    Anyway, I don’t know what I will use as a reference in future, as no other book – and, particularly, no website – compares with Maltin’s Movie Guide.

    1. Sorry but not definitive. I’ve charted it’s course and not one edition of Maltin’s book ever included The Manster, a 1959 Japanese/American co-production that is a schlock horror cult classic. Wiki has an entry, but not Leonard.

  3. He did not, in fact, and could not have watched or reviewed many thousands of the movies in his books… that’s what interns were for. Just do the math… or read the reviews.

    1. Sure he could. Let’s go with the 16,000 films listed in the new edition. Assume 2 hours average per film, that’s 32,000 hours of film watching. Now his job is watching films, so let’s say he spends 30 hours a week watching movies. 32,000/30 = 1067 weeks of movie watching. 1067/52 (weeks in a year) gives us 20.5 years. That’s less than half of his career. If we took the 32,000 hours and divided by his 45 year career, that’s a paltry 711 hours per year, or just one movie watched per day.

      Maybe he did watch every movie and maybe he didn’t, but it’s more than possible.

    2. Ok, lets! article says 16,000 movies. At say 3 hours to watch and write a review, that makes 48,000 hours. divide that by 8 hours in a standard work day and you 6000 days. Divide that by roughly 250 work days in a year and you get 24 years (21 years less than the run of the book). Seems like he had the time.

      But please, continue being a negative cynic who only lives to aggravate the average person, no one hates those types of people.

    3. You have obviously never worked as a movie critic. While I am not saying he did write every capsule, it is possible. It come out to 356 movies per year. That’s less than 1 per day, and I know as a film critic there are weeks where I average more than one per day

    4. Yes, if you actually read his book, it says right in the introduction that he has a staff who assists him with the reviews.

  4. Well I read that headline wrong. But my Movie Guides are always thumb worn by the time the new edition is published.

  5. A great reviewer and a gracious man. A sign of the times for sure but maybe like vinyl records, print books will make a comeback. Thanks Mr. Maltin.

  6. Such dreadful news [for film-freaks like me] in these nasty times.
    As “richard” was saying books printed on paper are energy-savers.
    I bought it nearly every year since 1993.
    I already pre-ordered this year’s edition.
    Next year I will order the 3rd edition of the Classic Movie Guide too.
    OMG. This. Is. So. Hard.

  7. While I haven’t bought the Guide in years, blame the internet, it was (along with Halliwell’s Movie Guide) my movie bible back in the 70’s and 80’s. Sad to see it go.

  8. “Servo: Ah, look here, look here, Outlaw Josey Wales AND Unforgiven! Oscar-winner. Quintessential Westerns, Eastwood at his finest. However, I think you know where we’re headed with this, Mike.
    Mike: Uh, yeah…
    Servo, Mike: Same as Laserblast—
    Servo: Two-and-a-half stars.”

  9. This is incredibly sad. As a teenager, in the pre-internet era, I spent hours reading and rereading Maltin’s Movie Guide, cross-referencing films, and learning about the history of Hollywood. I never got the opportunity to meet Leonard, but I’d like to thank him for being a big part of my life.

  10. I guess the obvious majority of folks (you know, the ones that make the decisions) who believe tomes like this are pointless aren’t chiming in here.

  11. The greatest pleasure of Leonard’s movie book is simply reading it. The collected wit and wisdom of the contributors is vastly more entertaining than website trolls and people who simply don’t have the depth of knowledge of film, yet who nevertheless post on review sites. One can sit down with the Movie Guide as one would a dictionary or encyclopedia, one subject leading to another, suddenly remembering a film you’d forgotten you liked or discovering one you never knew existed. This continues the loss of film scholarship itself. When people think they can glean everything they need to know about movies from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, AICN and other sites, it sadly shows a misunderstanding of what cinema history is and, more disastrously, why we need it now more than ever. That’s why I sign this posting –

  12. This just in, Gutenberg’s printing press put those hardworking scribes out of business. Give me a break.

  13. When I was entering college as a Film major, the head of the department asked me what made me so interested in films. I told him, “Leonard Maltin’s Film Guide.” He looked at me like I was crazy and not meant for the department, but I remember buying my first copy and being completely immersed in all the reviews and ratings of so many films I had never even heard of that it made me want to discover more about the making of movies. Since then the book has become my bathroom book of choice, religiously reading each and every review before I head out into this cruel internet-mad world!

  14. I liked his guide but preferred the video movie guide. I found one of those at a garage sale when I was a kid and bought one every year after. I read them until they fell apart and would make lists of interesting sounding movies when I’d of to the video store. That stopped being published some years back, and now Maltin’s is gone too. I actually prefer reading the printed books for these type of reviews to the internet. I sometimes wonder, maybe even worry, about our over dependence on “the cloud”. Imagine what would happen if terrorists got smart enough to use an emp. We’d lose a lot more than just movie reviews and trivia.

  15. Sounds to me they are not trying hard enough to do an e-book or on-line version. There’s always a need to short,compact capsule reviews information about films.

  16. So sad to see this go. I used to treasure this book, but, frankly, haven’t bought it lately, so I guess I’m guilty, too. I met Mr. Maltin last year. A very sweet man.

  17. I didn’t really realize this book was a big deal, or hadn’t even considered it was an annual thing (never gave it much thought). I was given a copy of the ’87 book for Christmas and spent many hours flipping through it, to see the reviews of movies I loved. I held on to it for way too long since it was a present, but I just recycled it in July, a victim of available shelf space as well as the internet.

  18. Maltin’s iPhone/iPod app was one of the best movie-related apps out there. Only the imdb app was better because of its sheer breadth, but you still have to slog through a dismaying number of atrociously written amateur reviews (many of which are just “payback” by malcontents because they feel too many people love or hate a movie they hate or love).

    Can’t remember the reason the Maltin app was discontinued, but I recall they were technical somehow, or related to the company that created the app, but the problem in my mind was that it was free. THE ENTIRE GUIDE was in that app! Plus Maltin’s new weekly reviews, which were much longer than the capsules and actually written by him.

    And yet the damned thing was FREE.

    Tell me there isn’t one fan of huge book out there that wouldn’t pay the iTunes-standard 99 cents for an app like that, or maybe even $1.99 for the first one, then .99 a year for the annual updates. Surely in use face of dwindling book sales, the income on that app would’ve allowed them to continue adding updates in perpetuity? Mr. Maltin, if you’re reading this, bring back that app and CHARGE FOR IT. I still have it on my old iPod and it remains as well-thumbed digitally as the paperback edition was physically. Maybe the revenue won’t equal what the book brought in in its heyday, but you’re seriously missing out on keeping your brand relevant by letting BOTH the book and the app die like this.

  19. My favorite review (I don’t remember the entire recap) was for “From Hell It Came”…the very first words were (going from memory): “…and to hell it can go…”

  20. My dad f’ing LOVES these books. Once he retired, he went through an entire issue and annotated it. I’m gonna buy him the final publishing for XMAS. You rock, LM!

  21. Another end of the era. Hard to believe to anyone under 40, but, for YEARS these Maltin books colllected more info about more movies than any source you could fit in your hands. IMDb? Didn’t exist. Maltin might not be the most searing critic out there, but, he IS a true movie fan. He is often seen around Hollywood not only at the chic premieres, but, at revival houses watching movies on the big screen that he’s probably seen dozens of times already.

    I don’t do so as often as I once did, but, I still will pull out one of Maltin’s books as a quick reference as opposed to jumping on the internet and checking on a film. The one cool thing about thumbing through a Maltin book is accidently running across another title on the same page that intrigues you. And, from that, you flip to another page and then another. You could start off with a quick 30 second glance, and then end up spending an hour!

    But, all things must come to an end. Maltin is getting up there in years. Let’s just say cheers and thanks for the memories.

  22. I remember when he was doing reviews on Entertainment Tonight. His review of one movie was him literally watching the movie with the screen in front of him, getting up and walking out. I think he worked better on the show just talking about the movies and his review books were the best.

  23. Quite sad, though perhaps inevitable. I have purchased every new copy since the first one I bought while a high schooler in my suburban Massachusetts home in the late 70’s. I referred to it as “The Bible” and it has always been within reach. I actually read each one cover to cover.

    I am now an Emmy-nominated network TV producer, a member of American Cinema Editors and the Producers Guild of America, but I still have a copy sitting on my living room end table. Like Leonard, I too am guilty of relying on the internet for quick reviews and extended cast lists. I have almost always preferred and agreed with The Guide’s reviews, however.

    I’ve met Leonard a few times over the years and he was always so appreciative of my fawning over his book. I truly wish there was a way to get them all onto the web, especially all those reviews that have gone by the wayside as the book has grown, like the made-for-TV movies.

    Thanks Mr. Maltin for helping me win many a movie trivia night!

    1. Steven H. Scheuer was the first to do paperback books with TV movie reviews. I still have his first edition from 1958-59, which included many minor 1930’s films deleted from later editions…

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