The news has apparently been floating around the Internet for a week or two, but I didn’t realize until I opened Leonard Maltin’s newly published “2015 Movie Guide” and read his introduction that this one will be the last.
Say it ain’t so.
Here’s the first sentence of that introduction: “This is the final edition of ‘Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide.’“
I haven’t been alone in anticipating this book as my only gotta-have every year since it went annual in 1986, and I’ve been buying it ever since the first edition came out as “TV Movies” in 1969 (with black-and-white photos).
When I started reviewing movies in 1978, I began purchasing two copies -- one for my desk at work and the other for use at home. (Would it have helped if I’d bought three every year?)
Of all the movie books I’ve rotated on my shelves for decades, none has been more used, dog-eared and beat up than Maltin’s “Movie Guide.”
In addition to capsule reviews and opinions of some 16,000 films, it’s an invaluable quick-read tool for tidbits of information — what year was that film released, is this one in color or black and white, how long is that movie, was that Samuel L. Jackson in a tiny role? And other minutiae that perhaps only a rabid movie fan can love.
But that’s the thing. Maltin’s “Movie Guide” has never been just about minutiae.
In a landscape that has seen many paperback capsule-review movie books come and go, Maltin’s has always managed to remain unique in terms of its high standard of quality and the inclusion of so many titles, from the blockbusters to the obscure.
And, more importantly, by being appealing both as a reference work for knowledgeable film buffs and as a consumer guide for casual viewers.
You may not always agree with each film’s assessment -- just two-and-a-half stars for “Forrest Gump”; only two for “White Christmas” -- but the write-ups certainly help you decide for yourself if a particular film is something that might appeal to you.
And think about how many older movies Maltin included that other books ignored because the films weren’t readily available to the consumer. Nowadays, with so many vintage titles being released on a regular basis, movie availability is finally catching up with the “Movie Guide.” (And if you’ve held onto earlier editions from the 1980s, that includes a lot of made-for-TV movies as well.)
But in this 21st-century world, where the Internet Movie Database and dozens of other film-oriented websites provide scads of information for free, it’s hard to compete. And I get that … although I still reach for Maltin’s book whenever I read something online that doesn’t seem quite right.
We all know newspapers are suffering thanks to the Internet’s free-information model, but I’ve been taking the “Movie Guide” for granted for so long that it never occurred to me it might also be suffering in sales.
As Maltin writes in the book’s introduction, however, readership has been dipping “at an alarming rate” for a few years now, and it’s such a huge project with so many hands in the stew that it’s simply no longer financially feasible to keep it going.
So get it while you can.
“Leonard Maltin’s 2015 Movie Guide: The Modern Era,” as the complete title reads, is now in bookstores … oh, and available online, of course.
The 1,600-page paperback features more than 300 new entries, including as many 2014 movies as could be squeezed in before the publisher’s deadline.
Unfortunately, to make room for these new titles, a lot of older films (including nearly all from the silent era) were of necessity dropped from this edition, along with the index.
But if you’re a vintage-movie fan, never fear. The author’s other book, “Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide,” which contains only pre-1965 films and is published every five years, remains on track to hit store shelves next year, according to Maltin’s website (blogs.indiewire.com/leonardmaltin).
That is good news. But will next year’s be the last edition of that book, too? Guess we’ll see.
Hey, as one title in the “Movie Guide” expresses, “Nothing Lasts Forever.”
So as sad as this news is, we bid adieu to the annual “Movie Guide” while cheering its value (even without future editions, I’ll be referring to it often) and acknowledging that it had an amazing lifespan.
As Maltin himself points out, a 45-year run is nothing to sneeze at.
Wow. Forty-five years.
No wonder I’ve been taking it for granted.