McCarthy Fired After 31 Years at Variety: ‘It’s the End of Something’

Despite reviewers’ tightening belts, chief film critic is told the trade is “restructuring”



Read also: Variety Drops Chief Film and Theater Critics

Todd McCarthy, who has been writing at Daily Variety for 31 years, was fired on Monday along with two other critics, as the trade elected to cut costs and move to freelance reviews. The move came as a shock to the entertainment industry and fellow critics across the country (Roger Ebert tweeted that he was canceling his subscription to the trade), despite the reality that critics have been losing their jobs at major dailies across the country for some time. 

McCarthy was grilled (gently) by Wrap editor Sharon Waxman about being laid off.

How are you?

Philosophically and mentally I’m fine. It’s bewildering. I think I’m fine because I feel the love today more than in a long time.

How did you find out?

(Variety Editor) Tim Gray called me in at noon. I go back to the beginning of Variety with him. After Army Archerd, I was the longest tenured person there. He said that they’re restructuring, and let go or have let go other full-time critics, except for Brian Lowry.

It’s me, Derek Elley, David Rooney — all the full-time reviewers. He said we’re restructuring, doing it all freelance.

Did he offer you a freelance contract?

No. it came up – well, maybe in the future.

Doesn’t it feel strange for Variety not to have a staff critic?

Everyone’s going to speculate, and all I can say, It’s the end of something. What that is I don’t know. I know what it means for me.

I’ve been fiercely and proudly reviewing at full speed since all the cutbacks. I made sure we had no slippage in our festival coverage and film reviewing, I’ve worked hard in recent times to make sure nothing slipped.

The reviews have been the most unchanged part of Variety, period. Forever.

What are you hearing from the industry?

I haven’t felt this much love in a long time. They’re shocked, they thought I’d be the last one to go.

I’ve always made a point of running the film review operation – we never slacked off. We tightened our belts – took cheaper airlines, rental cars. We were tight with expenses.

Is Variety still Variety without reviews?

We review well over 1,000 films a year, more than anyone else in the world. In the English-speaking world we’ve always run more than anyone in the world.

Is it sustainable as a freelance operation?

I guess they decided they could do it better that way.

Does Variety lose its identity through a move like this?

Personally I think it does.

Do you think Variety will survive?

Everyone will have a take on that. They wouldn’t have had three rounds of layoffs if things were fine. No one denies there are financial issues. They say they’re still in profit.  It’s sad. It’s the end of something. You can say it’s the end-the end, or you can say it’s the end of the way it’s always been done. It’s the end of me.

Read also: Variety Drops Chief Film and Theater Critics