Well before he began his career at KYW Newsradio, Bill Wine was already considered a veteran film critic, writing for publications around the city. But after 17 years with the station, Wine will not have a regular gig reviewing movies in 2019.
According to Wine, he won’t be returning to the KYW airwaves because of a change in philosophy by new owner Entercom, which merged with CBS Radio in 2017.
“There was a time early in my career that there were a few chosen movie critics that were followed by the public," Wine said. Now, “so many people call themselves movie critics. There is quantity instead of quality, and KYW decided, ‘What do we need this local movie critic for?’ And that’s that.”
Wine said he wasn’t happy with the decision but understood the business model.
“We are refocusing KYW content to better serve our listeners in the Philadelphia region,” said a source at the station. “Our listeners depend on KYW for news, and we have made slight adjustments to add approximately eight more minutes of news in each hour.”
Wine is no stranger to the ebbs and flow of the news business. When he started at KYW, he replaced Roger Ebert, the longtime Chicago Sun-Times critic and TV personality, whose work was syndicated. Wine said the move wasn’t because he was better than Ebert, but because the station wanted a local voice with a Philly accent.
Now, instead of being replaced, his position is being phased out.
Wine isn’t the only movie critic to face unemployment recently. National news organizations like the New York Observer, Entertainment Weekly, and USA Today have all eliminated film critic positions within the last five years, and the local film critic is a shrinking profession. (The Inquirer and the Daily News used to employ four film critics.)
For as long as he can remember, Wine has had a fancy for film. Growing up in West Oak Lane, he thumbed through newspapers and magazines at his local barbershop. More often than not, he’d find himself reading the movie reviews. His taste for show business, however, he inherited from his parents. “My father worked in theater, and my parents met acting opposite of each other in a play," he said.
After high school, Wine majored in math at Drexel University. Deciding that computation and algorithms weren’t his passion, he went to Temple University to earn his master’s in radio, TV, and film. While at Temple, he snagged gigs reviewing movies for local operations, such as Broad Street Community Newspapers, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and the Temple Review. After seeing a positive response to his reviews, he knew he had found his calling.
Wine also served as a communications professor at La Salle University, teaching classes in writing and film, from 1979 to 2015, when he retired. He won three Emmy Awards for his work in broadcast journalism at Philadelphia’s Fox 29.
“When I started [writing movie reviews], it was before the internet. It was before everything that’s changing the movie business," Wine said. “A lot of people feel like, ‘Who the heck is a movie critic to come on in a minute and to dismiss something that took hundreds of people and millions of dollars to create?’”
While the fate of the movie critic may seem grim, Wine believes that there is a sense of duty to writing a review “and it might as well be me, with my exquisite taste.”
So what’s next for Wine?
“I wish I had an answer," he said. “There is so much fear out there the theatrical experience of going to the movies may disappear, and that would make me very unhappy, because I’ve devoted most of my career and life to it.”
In the meantime, Wine said, he will keep busy with writing and editing opportunities along with appearances at libraries and community centers, where, he said, people relish the opportunity to engage with the “disembodied voice they’ve heard on the radio all these years.”