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August 18, 2009


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Andrew  Patner

Dear Kris,

The four star system -- with half-stars -- is one that people know, connect with, understand and one that allows for comparison and contrast across publications. The TO "six-star" ploy, nationally or internationally I can;'t recall, was just that, a ploy and was meaningless to readers. Five stars is little better. I note that Google, above, pulled up a "5 Star Daycare/Boarding" for "Upscale . . . Dog Boarding" based on your entry. I think that says enough -- 5, 6, 7 stars (luxury hotels use this one) are all marketing stretches. Perhaps 4 stars were too, once, but they were then incorporated into the general discussion over time.

My two cents!

Andrew P

Evan Linder

Here is an interesting post by Roger Ebert praising the rating system used by the San Francisco Chronicle:


It's not exactly a "star rating"(though it is on a 1-5 scale), but I like the points he is making.

Stars are such an arbitrary way to measure a work of art that I think any defense of them just further validates their existence. If a publication feels that their audience needs to see a star rating to help them choose what to do for the weekend then so be it, but I don't agree that readers would find a four-star rating system any more meaningful than a five-star one. I think stars are just an easy way for a reader to not actually have to read the review.

As for a four-star rating system providing easy comparison for reviews, I think that websites like Meta-Critic, Rotten Tomatoes and Theater in Chicago's Review Round-Up are doing a splendid job already.

And then there are thankfully many publications who review theater who don't feel the need for a star rating at all. The NY Times and the Suntimes immediately spring to mind.

Kris- When Timeout discussed changing to a five-star system, was the option of no-stars-at-all ever brought up? Do you actually find stars helpful in describing your experience in a theater?

freelance writing

will this site improve my knowledge. even in a single reading?

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  • Kris Vire
    I write about theater for Time Out Chicago. I write more about it here.

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