Friday, July 27, 2012
I still remember the first time I saw Variety. It was at a newsstand in downtown Detroit, just off Woodward Avenue. I was a kid from a town of 500 people in northern Canada and my father moved us to Windsor, across the river from 5 million people in the Detroit area.
I think it was 50 cents and I wasn't even sure what it was but I bought it. I took it home and begin to read it even though I couldn't understand terms like box office boffo, exec ankles, backdoor pilot, biopic and ozoner. Translation is 1) movie makes lots of money, 2) executive leaves studio, 3) TV movie becomes series, 4) biography picture and 5) drive-in movies which sometimes were called "passion pits".
It was like reading a whole new language and I took every bit of it in. It took me a year or so to figure out all the terms they used, a writer would "pen" a movie meaning a deal was made for a writer to write a movie.
I kept buying Variety for years after that and also discovered Hollywood Reporter. Both of them were essentially newspapers for the entertainment industry mainly in Los Angeles and New York. They were daily newspapers and had week-end newspapers which were the ones I was able to get. The dailies didn't get as far as Detroit.
And I wondered who else would buy this specialist newspaper; where there that many people in Detroit who were in the entertainment industry. Later on I realized that the entertainment industry in Detroit, mostly radio and TV, had both papers mailed directly to them. Remember mail?
In the scheme of things, it was another step towards me falling into the movie and TV industry and I often wonder if it was an accident or intended to be. I really like being a writer and a director and a filmmaker in general and am lucky to have a hand in each of the Big 3.
When I went out on my own as writer and director I continued to get Variety, but being in Canada, I was only able to get the week-end ones, but a week late. It didn't matter, I devoured the material, mostly about how much movies made, who was making them and what was in the works.
I learned terms like "above the line" which refers to the "talent" in a movie, the writer, the director, the producer and the stars". Crew was relegated to "below the line". DJ, for radio announcers was termed by Variety. A documentary film as a "doc".
Variety excelled at headlines as you see above, the line "stix nix hix pics" refers to the fact that rural movies didn't do well in rural communities. One of the best was "Wall Street Lays An Egg", which refers to the crash of 1929.
Variety started 107 years ago and covered the entertainment scene since then, with broadway plays, silent movies and onward up till now.
And now, it's in danger of disappearing altogether. As with all newspapers and magazines, Variety is struggling to keep going. They and Hollywood Reporter have internet versions but the daily papers are losing to instant internet news. Variety is the only remaining daily print publication exclusively covering movies, theater and TV.
It's sad to see it go, but I catch my entertainment news for free as do most people in this business with the exception of IMDB-Pro and it's just too easy to do that than to walk over to a newsstand and buy a copy.
Still it's like losing an old friend and the thrill and excitement this kid had when he read about the business that someday he would be part of.