Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The final issue of Premiere magazine arrived in my mailbox the other day, not that you would be able to tell from flipping through it. The (forgive the pun) premier mainstream movie magazine in America is ending in its print form, living on in a website that barely even acknowledges there ever was a magazine. This news seems to have been treated with a relative shrug by both media reporters (yawn, another print pub down the drain) and movie lovers, which probably speaks to the declining relevance of the magazine over the last several years. For the nuts and bolts history, the LA Times has a very thorough obit.
(Most hilariously or just sadly, a few days before the final issue I got a breathless letter from the Premiere subscriptions department entreating me to renew my subscription with copy obviously penned some time around 1993. Not only does it promise "special suprises in store in the months to come," but it also touts "reviews of the best releases on video and laser disc.")
Although it sounds like I am about to lament the lack of outcry over Premiere's demise, the truth is that I only started reading the magazine a few months ago, thanks to a free subscription offer I found online. I've been aware of Premiere for years, of course, and at one time it seemed like it had quite the reputation, and I always meant to pick up an issue but never did. It always struck me as odd that there wasn't the equivalent of a magazine like Rolling Stone or Spin or Alternative Press focused on film, one with real reporting and a breadth of subject matter covering both the mainstream and the alternative, along with genuine criticism (I realize I may be overrating these music magazines here, but you get the idea). Instead there were highbrow journals like Film Comment, and celebrity fluff like People, and little in between.
After reading about Premiere's impending demise, I paid closer attention to the last few issues, and there was a little evidence that it could have been (and maybe once was) that smart middle ground. Yes, there were plenty of fluffy interviews with celebrities who had movies out that month, and superfluously cheery previews of upcoming releases. But the penultimate issue had two interesting, well-reported pieces: one on the rise of straight-to-video sequels, and another on Peter Jackson's feud with New Line. Both were smart and insightful and not at all fluffy, but clearly pitched to the mainstream. A month or two before, there was a lengthy and satisfying profile of Sylvester Stallone. Nothing here was groundbreaking, but it was still filling a niche that, to me, is pretty much empty.
But print is slowly dying off anyway, so they say, and many mentions of the end of Premiere noted that Entertainment Weekly has taken up much of its slack. In terms of criticism, Glenn Kenny, the magazine's main movie reviewer, remains on staff at the website, and has a decent blog. One of the problems with writing movie reviews for a monthly publication, of course, is ending up often horribly out of date, so the web is probably a better place for him. It's where most film writing is headed anyway, it seems, but the quiet passing of Premiere is still the end of a (mostly forgotten) era.