Remembering some of the lost movie magazines of recent times, such as Hotdog, Film Review, Neon, Premiere, DVD Review and more.
There are currently five regular monthly film magazines in the UK, each of which could really use your support during what could politely be described as testing times for print publications. And as proof of that, there’s a whole host of film magazines that have come and gone over the past decade or two. This post, then, is a celebration of some of those terrific magazines. Do post in the comments if there are any that I’ve missed.
If you haven’t guessed, I spent a lot of money on film magazines….!
Launched in 1950, Film Review magazine ran for 58 years before it came to an end. It was renowned, long before the film magazines of today, for being home of the movie celebrity interview, and it earned a fresh lease of life when it was bought up by publishers Visual Imagination (who would in turn publish the likes of Starburst, Cult Times and Shivers).
I bought Film Review regularly throughout the 90s and 2000s, and it was hard to beat when it came to book reviews, its reader Q&A section and one of the most extensive video and DVD review sections in print. The rise of the internet took its toll, though, and the final edition – issue 700! – was published in December 2008. Not bad for a magazine that was launched on a three issue trial basis.
Writers such as James Mottram, Stephen Applebaum, the late Anwar Brett, Nikki Baughan and James Cameron-Wilson were amongst the many regular scribes for the magazine. In fact, Cameron-Wilson still keeps its flag flying with a regularly-updated website, that keeps the spirit of the publication going. You can find that right here.
A short-lived title this, from Blackfish Publishing, a company founded by Matt Bielby (and many of us grew up with magazines he edited and/or launched, including Your Sinclair, Amiga Power, Arcade, Super Play, SFX, .net and Total Film). After enjoying success with science fiction title Death Ray, Blackfish launched its own dedicated film magazine, Filmstar, that Bielby himself edited.
The first issue was published in 2009, a year after Blackfish had been bought up by 2000AD owners Rebellion. Filmstar was a detailed, mainstream magazine working under the mantra ‘we go deeper’ (and would describe itself as the “fresh-faced UK film magazine, with more to say than ‘hey, there’s a great new superhero movie coming out'”), and in particular I remember a well-deserved celebration of the work of Anna Faris being one of its big features. It also put Up as one of its cover films.
However, a split between Rebellion and Blackfish happened around the middle of 2009 ultimately caused a quick demise. In fact, the Tweet announcing the magazine’s closure remains live.
Filmstar Magazine has gone down – at least for the forseeable future. Owners have pulled out. Fun while it lasted. Goodbye chaps…
— Filmstar Magazine (@FilmstarMag) October 7, 2009
The plan had been to get the company back up and running and restart the magazines, Death Ray included. But Blackfish Publishing was ultimately dissolved in 2012, and the magazines never returned.
Whilst it’s still going in France (and a few other countries around the world too, I’ve since discovered), the original US version of Premiere magazine finally closed its doors in April 2007. I’d suggest that for the first 15 of its 20 years, it was the go-to magazine for hugely in-depth behind the scenes articles on mainstream movies. Hollywood-based, it had the access, and a raft of writing talent with clearly impressive contacts books. At its heights, it was one of the industry’s must-read publications.
For us film nerds in the UK, we had to pay a premium to get the imported version of the magazine, but it was worth it. It’s worth digging out some of the chunky back issues of the late 80s and early 90s in particular for a look at just how much you got for your money. One regularly-loved highlight was Paul Rudnick’s Libby Gelman-Waxner column, that would make the jump elsewhere when the publication shut its doors.
There was, for a while, a Premiere UK, that initially took some of the material from the American magazine and added UK-centric articles on top of that. It felt a little posher at first than its US cousin, but over time it’d morph into the American edition with a special UK section in the middle. It was ultimately published in the UK by Emap, who used Empire to heavily cross-promote it (as you’d expect).
The UK version lasted a couple of years, but the US print magazine survived the first decade of the world wide web. That said, advertising fell away and the final issues of the magazine were notably very much on the thin side. When the announcement came of its closure, there was a plan to continue Premiere as an online publication. That lasted a couple more years before fading away. Now, a few international iterations are all that remain of what was once one of the planet’s biggest and best film magazines.
One of the most-loved film magazines that came and went in the 1990s was Neon, a quite brilliant publication that was mainstream yet leftfield at the same time. Armed with a biting sense of humour and a willingness to champion whatever film took its fancy (as lots of film magazines do), its distinctive front covers memorably included a Father Ted/Star Wars mash-up for its second issue (above). You can see all of the covers here.
The problem, sadly, was as much as its readers loved it, the magazine struggled to break even. What’s more, Neon was ultimately part of the Emap empire, that was launching some terrific titles at the time (Minx magazine remains a 90s highlight), and enjoying deserved success with Empire’s growth.
Yet the story at the time – and there was pushback on this – was that its parent company was putting its energies into a new weekly entertainment title called Heat, and with Neon not making money, it focused on that instead. The early issues of Heat were very different to the phenomenon it became, too, with the likes of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and The Royle Family amongst its earlier covers. In fact, Heat itself was said to be on the line at one stage, until a television show called Big Brother happened.
Whatever the ultimately reason, though, Neon magazine would cease publication with its final issue in February 1999, with Christian Slater and a chainsaw greeting the front cover of its 26th and last issue. It remains a much-loved magazine.
Launched in 2000 by an independent company called I Feel Good Ltd (run by former Loaded editor James Brown), Hotdog magazine had quite a good run by the time it closed its doors, and gave lots of terrific writing talent a leg up in the industry. Notably, Andy McDermott came across from DVD Review (coming to that) to edit it, and he’s now a hugely-successful novelist. Likewise, the wonderful Catherine Bray was a staff writer, ahead of her subsequent broadcasting, editing, producing and writing career.
The magazine had an edge to it, and earned its fanbase for oftentimes going against the perceived norm. It was less keen to chase big blockbuster films for its covers in the earlier years in particular, although things began to change by the end of its run.
The catalyst, from the outside looking in, appeared to be the sale of the magazine to Paragon Publishing in 2002, and Paragon’s own sale to Highbury House Entertainment the year after. Highbury had notably financial problems, and as it lurched towards financial failure, so the covers of Hotdog got a lot more mainstream. Not that the staff appeared that happy about it, as the words inside the publication would frequently suggest.
The parent company, though, finally fell in 2005. Hotdog would be sold on to SMD Publishing who tried to save it, but it was deemed financially unviable. The final issue was published in 2006. In the end, the magazine had four owners over its six years. It was some achievement it even got published to the standard it did in the first place against that backdrop.
Several magazines launched when the DVD boom happened in the late 1990s – Ultimate DVD and DVD Monthly for instance – but the one that rose to the top and lasted the longest was DVD Review. Declaration: I wrote for this one for its first two years.
Whilst its rivals had spun out of hardware magazines such as Home Cinema Choice, DVD Review was all about the discs. For a while, it rode high too, with strong production values and even a spin-off book. But inevitably, as DVD became the norm and more mainstream, the need for a separate magazine began to dwindle.
It was part of the Paragon Publishing stable, launched in the late 90s, and thus became part of the Highbury House fire sale (see the Hotdog entry above) in the mid-2000s. In this case, Future Publishing had acquired the title, and it’d become DVD & Blu-ray Review magazine for the rest of its run. Quite a run, too. This one notched up over a decade of life, across 160 issues, with the final edition arriving in late 2011.
Again, some terrific talent worked on the magazine, with the likes of Rosie Fletcher and Ali Gray amongst its many contributors. Alastair Upham was the editor when it finally closed its doors.
Finally, a staple of trips to the movies in the 80s and 90s was the free copy of Flicks magazine that was often awaiting you at the cinema. Launched in 1984, to help offset the then-decline in cinema audiences in the UK, the magazine was a promotional publication at heart, with always had a bit more to it than it was given credit for. In the pre-internet era, its ‘Trailers’ section was an indispensable guide to upcoming UK cinema releases.
By the end of its run, the magazine gradually moved towards more reviews than previews, and criticism was present in the writing too. However, the cinema chains who were taking and distributing the magazine were veering more towards their own in-house publications, and so Flicks hit problems. In the late 90s, it was decided to make it a paid-for magazine and sell it on newsstands, but it was a short-lived idea. The final issue – edited by Jamie Graham – would be dated October 2000. You can read a full lookback from one of the people involved in the magazine here.
One or two other magazines came and went in this era – I vaguely remember buying a magazine called Movies, that had a discount ticket to see The Player on it – but these, I’d suggest, are the most remembered. Please feel free to correct me in the comments…
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