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Some Say It's Curtains Soon, but Premiere Is Sticking to Its Own Script

December 01, 1987|BRUCE HOROVITZ

There was an article on Eddie Murphy's newest film, "Beverly Hills Cop II"--without an interview with Murphy. And a cover story about Dan Aykroyd's latest flick, "Dragnet"--without a word from Aykroyd.

Unable to reach Murphy, the writers instead talked to soundmen and production assistants. And, with Aykroyd unavailable, they were able to buttonhole only his director. That, however, was the publication's first issue. "We had to beg people to get access to anyone," said Susan Lyne, editor of Premiere, the 4-issue-old, mass-market movie magazine. "Nobody knew who we were."

Since then, however, the stars have come out for Premiere, which has already been dubbed the Rolling Stone of the film industry. William Hurt talks about his new film, "Broadcast News" in the magazine's November issue. And in the December issue, actor Michael Douglas and director Oliver Stone discuss their new movie, "Wall Street." Meanwhile, big-time advertisers, from Procter & Gamble to Philip Morris, are betting that New York-based Premiere will not soon see its finale.

With good reason, too. Movies are hot tickets these days. Some 472 feature films were released last year, up about 43% from just five years ago, according to Daily Variety. And the booming home video market has also pumped new consumer interest into movies. What's more, the joint-venture group behind Premiere is impressing advertisers: It includes the bottomless wallet of media baron Rupert Murdoch and the experience of Hachette Publications, the giant French-based publishing company that also publishes Elle.

Murdoch has said publicly that he is prepared to pump $10 million into Premiere over its first three years. And Hachette is already publishing a highly successful French version of the publication.

Still, the odds are against them. First of all, most new magazines don't make it. Of the 372 magazines introduced last year, analysts say only about 10% are expected to survive. And--with limited potential readership--movie magazines are one of the toughest categories. As recently as 1983, publishers sunk $2.5 million into five issues of a now-defunct magazine, the Movies, before it went dark. And other film magazines, with names like Coming Attractions and Premiere (no relation to the current publication), lasted about as long as the costly box-office flop "Howard the Duck."

But Premiere may be one of the first film industry publications that can appeal to readers without degrees from the UCLA film school or who are not card-carrying members of the Directors Guild of America. The articles are generally simple, somewhat gossipy and chock-full of industry insights. For example, the most popular monthly feature is a column called "Shot by Shot," a series of photographs that show how technically difficult scenes are shot.

Publisher Peter W. Eldredge says the magazine needs to sell about 500,000 copies each month to become profitable--about twice its current sales. And, early on, Eldredge discovered that some of the most successful outlets aren't magazine stands or home subscriptions. They're video stores. That, of course, has long been the stomping ground of Rolling Stone, the rock music magazine that Premiere looks like, reads like and, at $1.95 an issue, is priced like.

While Rolling Stone Editor and Publisher Jann Wenner says he's "flattered" that his magazine is being "mimicked" by a film publication, he doesn't think Premiere will last very long. "Every big publisher in the business--including Rolling Stone--has considered and rejected doing a movie magazine. The audience just isn't there."

Indeed, the combined subscribers to the more esoteric film magazines such as Film Quarterly and American Film number far less than the audience Premiere is chasing. But Premiere professes to be different--and it does have its well-placed fans. One of its biggest boosters is Roger Ebert, co-host of the nationally syndicated television show, "Siskel & Ebert." "For a mass-market publication, it isn't pandering to the lowest common denominator," said Ebert, in an interview. "The field is wide open for a magazine like this."

One magazine publishing expert also says Premiere is a good bet to succeed. "For one thing, they have all the money in the world behind it," said Samir Husni, a professor at the University of Mississippi who publishes an annual guide to new magazines. "And I think there's a market for a movie magazine that takes a life-style approach."

Racy Ad Gets Plug

An ad for an ad? That's exactly what will appear in the Dec. 5 issue of TV Guide and in a number of TV listings in major metropolitan newspapers. The half-page ad promotes a steamy new commercial for Jovan Musk, which comes in both men's and women's fragrances. The ad, which names the TV shows that will carry the Jovan Musk commerical, will appear among the TV Guide listings--much as ads for TV shows do.

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