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It used to be that one of the sharpest movie blogs on the block was Cinematical.

It's been a great sounding board for all that's happening in movies, with sharp writers and a variety of opinions from old classics to new movies. It has fostered a good many writers who have moved on to other things — including Karina Longworth (now at LA Weekly), Jen Yamato (Movieline), Scott Weinberg (TwitchFilm), Kim Voynar (Movie City News), James Rocchi (MSN Movies) and the Cricket's friend Eric D. Snider (formerly of Provo's Daily Herald).

In recent months, though, Cinematical has been merged into AOL's Moviefone website — and things just haven't been the same.

On Monday, Cinematical's editor-in-chief, Erik Davis, put in his resignation. And though he didn't give a reason for leaving besides "it was time for me to move on to new challenges, both personally and professionally," AOL's recent acquisition of The Huffington Post — which subscribes to the business model of soliciting writers' contributions without actually paying them — was rumored to play a factor.

On Tuesday, the other shoe dropped. Yes, indeed, Moviefone and Cinematical are going to can their paid freelancers — and invite them to write for the site for free.

The New York Observer's BetaBeat blog got hold (from Snider, as it turns out) of an email being circulated to Cinematical's writers. It read, in part:

Sometime soon – this week, I believe – many of you will be receiving an email informing you that your services as a freelancer will no longer be required. You will be invited to contribute as part of our non-paid blogger system; and though I know that for many of you this will not be an option financially, I strongly encourage you to consider it if you'd like to keep writing for us, because we value all of your voices and input.

See, they "value" the voices - just not enough to pay money for them. The reward of writing for one of Arianna Huffington's websites is apparently reward enough.

The site will still be there. There just won't be any reason for anyone to read it.

Stephen Saito, on IFC's film blog, talks about Cinematical's influence on movie conversations on the Web, and chronicles the exodus of Cinematical's writers. Voynar, writing on her Movie City News blog, put it best: "RIP, Cinematical."