Media Analysis: Film mags seek access all areas

Total Film and sci-fi specialist SFX have come under new editorial leadership. Donna Werbner examines how agencies can achieve coverage for potential hits, and finds that access is often strictly limited.

Film PR might look easy to the inexperienced eye - full of the media's favourite ingredients of sex, showbiz and celebrity - but the reality is often more grit than glamour. The need to offer exclusives to film magazines and national newspaper supplements, while working to their very different deadlines, means that film PROs need to come up with multiple, original angles for the same story.

'It's a challenge because there is a tendency to want to do the same sort of campaign every time around,' admits Premier PR account manager Kat Halsby, who works for clients including Columbia and Pathe.

'There's increasingly a need to look outside the film pages and come up with unusual angles for different genres, such as travel,' she says, adding that in around two out of five campaigns she is unable to grant UK journalists access to Hollywood talent.

Limited availability of stars

The growing desire of PROs to get into the nationals and the limited availability of interviews with stars means UK press are often only granted access, photographs and other publicity material a few weeks before a film's release - leaving long-lead titles out in the cold.

Sci-fi specialist SFX's outgoing editor Dave Golder, who is being replaced by Windows XP Magazine editor Dave Bradley this month, argues it would be short-sighted to ignore magazines such as his: 'Dedicated film-goers read film titles, and they are an important target for word of mouth because people respect their opinions.'

Total Film also has a new editor in Mark Dinning (PRWeek, 10 June), while Empire deputy editor Will Lawrence replaced Colin Kennedy as acting editor last November.

Some magazines, such as SFX and Sight & Sound, cater for film makers as well as fans, while others, such as Hotdog, are more celebrity driven.

Exclusives are crucial, especially for cover shots and interviews, and most editors say they want to champion smaller, independent films, as well as the big Hollywood hits.


ABC: 205,587 (2004)

Acting editor: Will Lawrence

Contact: 020 7436 1515

What makes Empire distinctive?

We were the first film magazine to launch and are celebrating our 16th birthday this year. Because of this, we like to be innovative and are open to marketing ploys that help us to maintain our reputation as a pioneer and a collectible.

Can PROs benefit from this?

Creative PROs can take advantage. For example, we recently brought out the first 'breathing' magazine, to draw attention to the release of Star Wars Episode III and our cover photo of Darth Vader.

Any other opportunities?

We also cover film merchandise, home cinema hardware and technology, DVD releases (both films and TV series) and film-related books, CDs and videogames. We like to strike a balance between covering directors, film makers and film stars. Overall we try to cover a broad selection of films, from mainstream blockbusters to smaller, independent films.

Total Film

ABC: 82,810 (2004)

Editor: Mark Dinning

Contact: 020 7317 2461

What's different about Total Film?

Our sense of humour. We get as excited about movies as the fans but we enjoy a bit of self-deprecation as well. The breadth of films we cover also puts us apart from the rest - we want to find the next hidden gem as well as the next blockbuster and to present a balanced view of everything that's out there.

What's the next big thing for film magazines?

DVDs are becoming hugely important to our readers and the market has grown massively in the past year. More classic movies are being re-released on DVD; they are collectible commodities and the quality of the extras they offer is high, which provides good news hooks for features. The gulf has narrowed between cinema and DVDs.

What opportunities are there for PROs in your magazine?

As long as it's interesting to a keen film fan, we wouldn't shut the door on anything.

Sight & Sound

ABC 22,616 (2004)

Editor Nick James

Contact 020 7255 1444

How does Sight & Sound stand out?

We're a journal of record and have to maintain standards of excellence.

Other film magazines are just arms of Hollywood's PR machine - they fill their publications full of films they haven't seen yet. Sight & Sound is the niche magazine for specialist cinema and international film. We're interested in the films themselves, the directors and the screenwriters - not the actors' star signs, favourite colours or looks.

How important are photographs?

If a PRO sends us a relevant, knock-out image, we'll find a place for it.

Who reads your magazine?

Approximately 75 per cent of our readers are male and in the ABC1 income bracket.

Any advice for PROs?

Contact us at least three weeks before the release date of a film.

We are also interested in film-related activities, for example modern artists who use film, but not merchandise.

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