Does the world really need another movie magazine? I think the answer is yes - because of a gap between serious film journals, aimed at movie buffs, and fan publications that dwell on superficial glamour. What's been missing is an intelligent magazine for ordinary people who want to find out about film without making it a full-time job.
Enter Premiere, the new kid on the newsstand. Judging from its first issue - now available in the United States, Canada, and England - it's a welcome addition to the movie-journalism scene.
Two things help Premiere stand out. One is the large amount of sheer information it contains, including mountains of key facts on everything from summer hits to video hardware.
The other is the generally high quality of Premiere's writing, which is refreshingly free of the adolescent prose and self-conscious hipness that mar some film journals. Hollywood jargon creeps in occasionally, but you'll also find ready explanations of what the peculiar phrases mean.
Premiere is edited by Susan Lyne, a former managing editor of the Village Voice, who has also worked as a project developer for Jane Fonda. Interviewed at the magazine's Manhattan headquarters, she showed a healthy appreciation for movies and moviegoers alike.
``Most people go to see movies primarily for entertainment,'' she said. ``So we'll be looking at what big movies are opening. But people see film in a lot of different ways, on a lot of different levels: They're educational; they challenge our assumptions about things in our world. So we'll also be touching on the social significance of films. We'd like the magazine to be as entertaining a `read' as we think films are to see.''
According to its editor, Premiere will try to fill the void between specialty magazines - like American Film, published by the American Film Institute - and newspaper movie reviews.
``This is not an analytical magazine,'' Ms. Lyne says. ``It's also not a public-relations magazine. We'll look at the way the movies are made, the way they're financed, the way they're cast, why a movie goes over budget, why a director makes a certain choice, where the money goes in movies - a lot of questions that people have about film....''
Lyne wants to zero in on the specifics of moviemaking, avoiding the journalistic tendency to lump things into categories.
``You won't see a lot of trend pieces in Premiere,'' she states. ``I don't think people need to see more articles about why there's a spate of Vietnam films coming out this year, or why there's a spate of bayou films coming out next fall. I think that's kind of interesting as a notation, but it's the kind of thing you see in the Sunday supplements of a lot of newspapers. What's more interesting is to get the stories behind how and why these particular films were made.''
Although it remains to be seen whether she'll accomplish her goal, Lyne wants to make Premiere a different kind of film magazine - one that dodges the usual movie-star celebrations, finding new perspectives on issues in film.
``I do think certain things are covered to death,'' she says, referring to film journalism in general. ``You'll notice over and over that a certain personality is covered in seven magazines in the same month. It could be Molly Ringwald, or it could be Michael J. Fox around the time of `The Secret of My Success.' There's a kind of publicity machine that begins to churn up when there's a big movie coming out, and it always focuses on a celebrity, usually an actor. That's the way the story of a certain movie is told. I think there are so many other angles to a film that are more interesting....''
As an example of the Premiere approach, editor Lyne points to an article in the first issue about Brian De Palma's current hit.
``When we covered `The Untouchables,' we did it through the way De Palma created the climactic scene,'' she says. ``We heard the story that he had to put this scene together in about eight days, because they couldn't film the original, written scene - it was too expensive. So we went to him to find out where the scene came from, and then got him to break it down, beat by beat. ... I think people are fascinated by that - how someone draws a scene out first on paper, imagines it, and then finally makes it reality.
``In the case of `Beverly Hills Cop II' we put together a kind of production diary: How this movie came to be, from the day the first `Beverly Hills Cop' was screened to the day they finally put the looping [final voice-dubbing] together for `Cop II.' What goes into the making of a sequel like that? That's the kind of story you'll find in Premiere.''
And it's the kind of story filmgoers will see plenty more of in future issues, if Premiere lives up to its promise and becomes a hit on the newsstands.