Hollywood Critics' Groups Squabble Over Who Is a Hollywood Critic

Hollywood Critics Association - Publicity - H 2020
Courtesy of Scott Menzel/Karina Pires Photography

A battle is brewing in the world of L.A. film criticism — and it has nothing to do with Rotten Tomatoes. 

According to a letter posted on Twitter, the Critics' Choice Association reached out to its membership “on advice of legal counsel” after deeming it unacceptable for CCA members to also retain membership in another critics group, known as the Hollywood Critics Association. The latter group — founded three years ago by Scott Menzel, editor-in-chief of We Live Entertainment — changed its name to HCA last October from the Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society.

“Unfortunately, it’s new name inaccurately implies that most Hollywood critics are members, which is clearly not the case. … The name HCA suggests that the group represents what the Critics' Choice Association actually is — the largest association of movie critics covering ‘Hollywood,’” reads the letter. Menzel confirms that his members received an email (dated Jan. 30) that called for the overlapping members (estimated to be about 7 of 48 in total) to pick between the two organizations. 

Menzel defended the name change, adding that they only changed the moniker to find one that “more easily rolls off the tongue,” while speaking to a broader demographic and expanding upon a message of the importance of inclusion in criticism moving into a new decade. Menzel says his organization started as a way to bring underrepresented critics together and provide a group where film and entertainment lovers could bond and “make a difference” in a sea of organizations.

“This really hurts because I poured my heart and soul into this organization and there’s no reason these two groups can’t co-exist. There’s no overlap, and we’re never going to become the Critics' Choice Association nor do we want to be. There are hundreds of critics groups all across the country that use ‘Critics’ and ‘Association in their name. Why are we being singled out? What is the real reason why HCA is being targeted? ... There are 413 members in Critics' Choice, some of which aren't even active in the field, and many belong to multiple organizations. Why should anyone have to choose between one or the other in the first place?”  

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.