Variety is an American media company owned by Penske Media Corporation. It was founded by Sime Silverman in New York in 1905 as a weekly newspaper reporting on theater and vaudeville. In 1933 it added Daily Variety, based in Los Angeles, to cover the motion-picture industry. Variety.com features breaking entertainment news, reviews, box office results, cover stories, videos, photo galleries and more, plus a credits database, production charts and calendar, with archive content dating back to 1905.
Sime was fired by The Morning Telegraph in 1905 for panning an act which had taken out an advert for $50, and said that it looked like he would have to start his own paper in order to be able to tell the truth. With a loan of $1,500 from his father-in-law, he launched Variety as publisher and editor.
The original cover design, which is very similar to the current design, was sketched by Edgar M. Miller, a scenic painter, who refused payment.
The front cover contained pictures of the original editorial staff, who were Alfred Greason, Epes W Sargeant (Chicot or Chic) and Joshua Lowe, as well as Sime.
The first issue contained a review by Sime's son Sidne, also known as Skigie (based on the childish lisping of his name) who was claimed to be the youngest critic in the world at seven years old.
In 1922 Sime acquired The New York Clipper which had been reporting on the stage and other entertainment since 1853 and folded it two years later, merging some of its features into Variety.
Also in 1922, Sime launched the Times Square Daily, which he referred to as "the world's worst daily" and soon scrapped. During that period, Variety staffers worked on all three papers.
After the launch of The Hollywood Reporter in 1930, which Variety sued for alleged plagiarism in 1932, Sime launched Daily Variety in 1933, based in Hollywood, with Arthur Ungar as the editor. It replaced Variety Bulletin that was issued in Hollywood on Fridays. Daily Variety was initially published every day other than Sunday but mostly on Monday to Friday. Ungar was editor until 1950, followed by Joe Schoenfeld (1950–1959) and then Thomas M. Pryor (1959–1988), who was succeeded by his son Pete. The Daily and the Weekly were initially run as virtually independent newspapers, with the Daily concentrating mostly on Hollywood news and the Weekly on U.S. and International coverage.
Sime Silverman had passed on the editorship of the Weekly Variety to Abel Green as his replacement in 1931; he remained as publisher until his death in 1933 soon after launching Daily Variety. Green remained as editor from 1931 until his death in 1973.
Sime's son Sidne succeeded him as publisher of both publications. Following his death from tuberculosis in 1950, his only son Syd Silverman, was the sole heir to what was then Variety Inc. Young Syd's legal guardian Harold Erichs oversaw Variety Inc. until 1956. After that date Syd Silverman managed the company as publisher of both the Weekly Variety in New York and the Daily Variety in Hollywood, until the sale of both papers in 1987 to Cahners Publishing for $64 million. He remained as publisher until 1990 when he was succeeded on Weekly Variety by Gerard A. Byrne and on Daily Variety by Sime's great grandson, Michael Silverman. Syd became chairman of both publications.
In 1953 Army Archerd's "Just for Variety" column appeared on page two of Daily Variety and swiftly became popular in Hollywood. Archerd broke countless exclusive stories, reporting from film sets, announcing pending deals, giving news of star-related hospitalizations, marriages, and births. The column appeared daily for 52 years until September 1, 2005.
On December 7, 1988, the editor, Roger Watkins, proposed and oversaw the transition to four-color print. Upon its launch, the new-look Variety measured one inch shorter with a washed-out color on the front. The old front-page box advertisement was replaced by a strip advertisement, along with the first photos published in Variety since Sime gave up using them in the old format in 1920: they depicted Sime, Abel and Syd.
For 20 years from 1989 its editor-in-chief was Peter Bart, originally only of the weekly New York edition, with Michael Silverman (Syd's son) running the Daily in Hollywood. Bart had worked previously at Paramount Pictures and The New York Times. In April 2009 Bart moved to the position of "vice president and editorial director", characterized online as "Boffo No More: Bart Up and Out at Variety". From mid 2009 to 2013, Timothy M. Gray oversaw the publication as Editor-in-Chief, after over 30 years of various reporter and editor positions in the newsroom.
In October 2012 Reed Business Information, the periodical's owner, (formerly known as Reed-Elsevier, which had been parent to Cahner's Corp. in the United States) sold the publication to Penske Media Corporation. PMC is the owner of Deadline Hollywood, which since the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike has been considered Variety's largest competitor in online showbiz news. In October 2012, Jay Penske, Chairman and CEO of PMC, announced that the website's paywall would come down, the print publication would stay, and he would invest more into Variety's digital platform in a townhall.
In March 2013 Variety owner Jay Penske appointed three co-editors to oversee different parts of the publication's industry coverage; Claudia Eller as Editor, Film; Cynthia Littleton as Editor, TV, and Andrew Wallenstein as Editor, Digital.
In October 2014 Eller and Wallenstein were upped to Co-Editors in Chief, with Littleton continuing to oversee the trade's television coverage. In June 2014, Penske Media Corporation (PMC) entered into an agreement with Reuters to syndicate news from Variety and Variety Latino-Powered by Univision to distribute leading entertainment news to the international news agency's global readership. This dissemination comes in the form of columns, news stories, images, video, and data-focused products. In July 2015, Variety was awarded a Los Angeles Area Emmy Award by the Television Academy in the Best Entertainment Program category for Variety Studio: Actors on Actors, a series of one-hour specials that take viewers inside Hollywood films and television programs through conversations with acclaimed actors. A second Los Angeles Area Emmy Award was awarded in 2016.
A significant portion of the publication's advertising revenue comes during the film-award season leading up to the Academy Awards. During this "Awards Season", large numbers of colorful, full-page "For Your Consideration" advertisements inflate the size of Variety to double or triple its usual page count. These advertisements are the studios' attempt to reach other Hollywood professionals who will be voting on the many awards given out in the early part of the year, including the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and various guild award honors.
The first issue of Variety sold 320 copies in 1905.
Paid circulation for the weekly Variety magazine in 2013 was 40,000 (Source: BPA Audit Statement, 2013). Each copy of each Variety issue is read by an average of three people, with an estimated total readership of 120,000 (Source: Ipsos Subscriber Study, 2013). Variety.com has 17 million unique monthly visitors (Source: Google Analytics, 2015).
On December 15, 1906, Variety published its first anniversary number that contained 64 pages, double the size of a regular edition. It published regular bumper anniversary editions each year, most often at the beginning of January, normally with a review of the year and other charts and data, including, from 1938 onwards, lists of the top performing films of the year  and, from 1949, the annually updated all-time rental chart. The editions also contained many advertisements from show business personalities and companies. The 100th anniversary edition was published in October 2005 listing Variety's icons of the century.
As well as the large anniversary editions, Variety also published special editions containing lots of additional information, charts and data (and advertising) for the following film festivals:
Daily Variety also published an anniversary issue each October. This regularly contained a day-by-day review of the year in show business and in the 1970s started to contain republication of the film reviews published during the year.
Older back issues of Variety are available on microfilm. In 2010, Variety.com allowed access to digitized versions of all issues of Variety and Daily Variety with a subscription. Certain articles and reviews prior to 1998 have been republished on Variety.com. The Media History Digital Library has scans of the archive of Variety from 1905–1961 available online.
For much of its existence, Variety's writers and columnists have used a jargon called slanguage or varietyese (a form of headlinese) that refers especially to the movie industry, and has largely been adopted and imitated by other writers in the industry. The language initially reflected that spoken by the actors of the early days during the newspaper.
Such terms as "legit", "boffo", "sitcom", "sex appeal", "payola", and "striptease" are attributed to the magazine. Its attempt to popularize "infobahn" as a synonym for "information superhighway" never caught on. Television series are referred to as "skeins", and heads of companies or corporate teams are called "toppers". In addition, more-common English words and phrases are shortened; "audience members" becomes simply "auds", "performance" "perf", and "network" becomes "net" for example.
According to The Boston Globe, the Oxford English Dictionary cites Variety as the earliest source for about two dozen terms, including "show biz" (1945). In 2005, Welcome Books published The Hollywood Dictionary by Timothy M. Gray and J. C. Suares, which defines nearly 200 of these terms.
One of its popular headlines was during the Wall Street Crash of 1929: "Wall St. Lays An Egg". The most famous was "Sticks Nix Hick Pix" (the movie-prop version renders it as "Stix nix hix pix!" in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Michael Curtiz's musical–biographical film about George M. Cohan starring James Cagney).
In 2012 Rizzoli Books published Variety: An Illustrated History of the World from the Most Important Magazine in Hollywood by Gray. The book covers Variety's coverage of hundreds of world events, from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, through Arab Spring in 2012, and argues that the entertainment industry needs to stay aware of changes in politics and tastes since those changes will affect their audiences. In a foreword to the book, Martin Scorsese calls Variety "the single most formidable trade publication ever" and says that the book's content "makes you feel not only like a witness to history, but part of it too."
Variety's first offices were in the Knickerbocker Theatre located at 1396 Broadway on 38th and Broadway in New York. Later it moved to 1536 Broadway at the 45th and Broadway corner until Loew's acquired the site to build the Loew's State Theatre.
In 1920 Sime Silverman purchased an old brownstone building around the corner at 154 West 46th Street in New York, which became the Variety headquarters until 1987, when the publication was purchased. Under the new management of Cahners Publishing, the New York headquarters of the Weekly Variety was relocated to the corner of 32nd Street and Park Avenue South. Five years later, it was downgraded to a section of one floor in a building housing other Cahner's publications on West 18th Street, until the majority of operations were moved to Los Angeles.
When Daily Variety started in 1933, its offices were in various buildings near Hollywood Blvd. and Sunset Blvd. In 1972, Syd Silverman purchased a building at 1400 North Cahuenga Blvd. which housed the Daily's offices until 1988, after which its new corporate owners and new publisher, Arthur Anderman, moved them to a building on the Miracle Mile on Wilshire Boulevard.
In late 2008 Variety moved its Los Angeles offices to 5900 Wilshire, a 31-story office building on Wilshire Boulevard in the Miracle Mile area. The building was dubbed the Variety Building because a red, illuminated "Variety" sign graced the top of the building.
In 2013 PMC, the parent company of Variety, announced plans to move Variety's offices to their new corporate headquarters at 11175 Santa Monica Blvd. in Westwood. There, Variety shares the 9-story building with parent company PMC, Variety Insight, Variety 411, and PMC's other media brands, including Deadline.com, HollywoodLife.com, GoldDerby.com, Robb Report and the West Coast offices of WWD and Footwear News.
In 1909, Variety had set up its first overseas office in London.
By the time of Sime Silverman's death in 1933, in addition to the New York and Los Angeles offices, there were offices in Chicago and London. Eventually Variety had fully staffed offices based in Sydney, Paris, Rome, Copenhagen, Madrid and Munich.
On January 19, 1907, Variety published what is considered the first film review in history. Two reviews written by Sime Silverman were published: Pathe's comedy short An Exciting Honeymoon and Edison Studios' western short The Life of a Cowboy directed by Edwin S. Porter.
Variety discontinued reviews of films between March 1911 until January 1913 as they were convinced by a film producer, believed to be George Kleine, that they were wasting space criticising moving pictures and others had suggested that favourable reviews brought too strong a demand for certain pictures to the exclusion of others. Despite the gap, Variety is still the longest unbroken source of film criticism in existence.
In 1930 Variety also started publishing a summary of miniature reviews for the films reviewed that week and in 1951 the editors decided to position the capsules on top of the reviews, a tradition retained today.
Writing reviews was a side job for Variety staff, most of whom were hired to be reporters not film or theatre critics. Many of the publication's reviewers identified their work with four-letter pen names rather than with their full names. Those abbreviated names include the following:
Variety is one of the three English-language periodicals with 10,000 or more film reviews reprinted in book form. These are contained in the 24 volume Variety Film Reviews (1907–1996). Film reviews continue to be published in Variety. The other two periodicals are The New York Times (as The New York Times Film Reviews (1913–2000) in 22 volumes) and Harrison's Reports (as Harrison's Reports and Film Reviews (1919–1962) in 15 volumes).
In 1992 Variety published the Variety Movie Guide containing a collection of 5,000 abridged reviews edited by Derek Elley. The last edition was published in 2001 with 8,500 reviews. Many of the abridge reviews for films prior to 1998 are published on Variety.com unless they have later posted the original review.
The complete text of approximately 100,000 entertainment-related obituaries (1905–1986) were reprinted as Variety Obituaries, an 11-volume set, including alphabetical index. Four additional bi-annual reprints were published (for 1987–1994) before the reprint series was discontinued.
Variety started reporting box office grosses for films by theatre on March 3, 1922, to give exhibitors around the country information on a film's performance on Broadway, which was often where first run showings of a film were held. In addition to New York City, they also endeavored to include all of the key cities in the U.S. in future and initially also reported results for 10 other cities including Chicago and Los Angeles. They continued to report these grosses for films until 1989 when they put the data into a summarized weekly chart and only published the data by theatre for New York and Los Angeles as well as other international cities such as London and Paris.
As media expanded over the years, charts and data for other media such as TV ratings and music charts were published, especially in the anniversary editions that were regularly published each January.
During the 1930s charts of the top performing films of the year were published and this tradition has been maintained annually since.
Later in 1946 a list of All-Time Top Grossers with a list of films that had achieved or gave promise of earning $4,000,000 or more in domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals was published. An updated chart was published annually for over 50 years, normally in the anniversary edition each January.
In the late 1960s Variety started to use an IBM 360 computer to collate the grosses from their weekly reports of 22 to 24 U.S. cities from January 1, 1968. The data came from up to 800 theatres which represented around 5% of the U.S. cinema population at the time but around one-third of the total U.S. box office grosses. In 1969, they started to publish the computerized box office compilation of the top 50 grossing films of the week based on this data. "The Love Bug" was the number one in the first chart published for the week ending April 16, 1969. The chart format was changed in 1989 to reduce the list to a top 40 and display a summary of the sample city theater grosses rather than publish the theater grosses separately. The sample chart was discontinued in 1990.
Arthur D. Murphy, who joined Variety in 1964 and worked there until 1993, was one of the first to organize and chart domestic box office gross information that became more available during the 1980s and report it in a meaningful form setting a standard for how film box office information is reported today. Murphy used the weekly sample reports to estimate the total US weekly box office compared with previous annual totals which was reported in Variety's US Boxoffice Report each week. The sample also allowed Murphy to estimate the Market Share percentage rankings of distributors.
In 1976 the Variety Box Office Index (VBI) was launched where each month's actual key city box office tally, after seasonal adjustment, was simultaneously expressed as an index number, with 1970 as a whole being used as the base initially. The current month's VBI expressed the monthly box office performance as a percentage change from the base year. The index was published until 1991 giving a history of comparable monthly and annual box office performance for the past 20 years.
During the 1980s, Daily Variety started to publish a weekly chart of the domestic box office grosses of films as compared to the Top 50 chart in Variety which was based on a sample of key markets. Variety started to publish this weekend box office report together with the sample Top 50 chart (later top 40) until they discontinued the sample chart in February 1990 with the weekend box office report being their main source of box office reporting.
In 2009 Variety launched a chart showcasing the top performing film trailers ahead of theatrical release in partnership with media measurement firm Visible Measures.
In 1937 Variety compiled and published a Radio Directory compiling a record of events in radio such as program histories, ratings and popularity polls. It published an annual edition for at least the next three years which are available on the Media History Digital Library.
In 1990 Variety published a 15-volume set of its television reviews (including home video product) from 1923 to 1988. Additional supplements were published covering 1989-1990, 1991-1992 and 1993-1994.
In November of 2014 Variety announced the premiere of Variety Studio: Actors on Actors which subsequently went on to win three Emmy awards, including a Daytime Creative Arts Award in May of 2019. Variety Studio: Actors on Actors” is a production with PBS SoCal that features two actors discussing their craft and thoughts on Hollywood. The winning season includes interviews with actors promoting their television projects including: Bill Hader (“Barry”) with Jason Bateman (“Ozark” and “Arrested Development”), Michael B. Jordan (“Fahrenheit 451”) with Issa Rae (“Insecure”), Sharon Stone (“Mosaic”) with Debra Messing (“Will & Grace”), Jonathan Groff (“Mindhunter”) with Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Deuce”), J.K. Simmons (“Counterpart”) with Edie Falco (“Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders”), and Jeff Daniels (“Godless” and “The Looming Tower”) with Laura Linney (“Ozark.”)
Variety Studio: Actors on Actors is produced by Associate Publisher Donna Pennestri and Managing Director, Features & Events, John Ross.
Variety established its data and research division, Variety Insight, in 2011 when it acquired entertainment data company, TVtracker.com. Its film database was announced in December 2011 as FlixTracker, but was later folded into Variety Insight. Variety positioned the subscription service as an alternative to crowd-sourced websites, such as the IMDb. The database uses Variety's existing relationships with the studios to get information. The New York Observer identified the main competitor as Baseline StudioSystems. In 2014, Variety Insight added Vscore, a measure of actors' cachet and bankability. In 2015 they partnered with ScriptNoted, a social media website for film scripts.
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