Movie critics get paid to watch films and discuss their merits and flaws, helping people to decide if they want to see a film or not. A good movie critic brings insight and knowledge to his writing: helping his readers look at a given movie in ways they might not otherwise consider. Being a movie critic is easy--indeed, anyone who’s ever expressed an opinion about a movie is a critic of some form or another--but getting paid for it can be tricky.
Newspaper and Magazine Critics
Movie critics usually worked for magazines or newspapers in the days before the rise of the Internet. Some still do, but the slow decline of print has limited the number of positions available. Print outlets once gave individual critics a great deal of influence, and writers such as Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael sometimes could make or break a film with their reviews. A print critic receives a salary from the newspaper or periodical that hires her; some get paid on commission and receive a set fee for a single article. PayScale reports that salaried writing of this sort ranges from $27,364 to $49,576 per year as of the end of 2010.
The rise of the Internet has created a new outlet for movie critics. Anyone can set up a blog or a website and deliver reviews of films he has seen. Websites which generate a lot of traffic often receive press credentials, allowing these critics to attend screenings and junkets the way print journalists do. Because there are so many online critics, pay rate declines drastically, and few online critics have salaried positions. Indeed, many write out of love for film and the satisfaction of reaching an audience rather than any money. Those who get paid can receive anything from $5 to $200 per review.
Television used to feature a number of critics: notably Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, whose syndicated show ran for many years. (Siskel died in 1999, but Ebert continues to appear on television.) Other prominent television critics included Leonard Maltin, Jeffrey Lyons and Richard Roeper; many of them had backgrounds in print criticism before becoming television critics. Media mergers have caused controversy in this field of criticism, since many of the same entities who pay television critics also release movies, raising the question of whether such critics can evaluate fairly. According to Youth on Careers, television film critics make between $40,000 and $60,000 per month. Ebert--likely the highest paid film critic working today--has a net worth of $9 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
While most movie critics don’t receive much money, they can receive benefits that help compensate for their time and effort. Critics with press credentials attend preview screenings, allowing them to see the movies for free several days before they open. If the critic reviews DVDs, he may receive free copies from the studio, and critics who go to press junkets may receive additional gifts, such as T-shirts and knickknacks.