American Film magazine, recently acquired by Billboard Publications Inc., will relocate to Los Angeles from New York within two months. Although the new owners say they plan no major changes in the format or content of the 12-year-old monthly publication, its top five editors will not make the move West.
Billboard, which owns several entertainment publications including the trade papers Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, closed a deal to buy the film magazine from the American Film Institute this week. No price was announced.
Ann Haire, senior vice president of Billboard, said the new American Film offices would probably be in the Hollywood Reporter building on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. She said the company is "not planning any major changes in content or in (the magazine's) presentation."
That is not what American Film's departing editor, Susan Linfield, sees happening. Linfield said that "the plans imposed or implied by Billboard would compromise the quality of the magazine."
She said staff cuts instituted by the magazine's new owners will have a direct effect on the editorial product. Linfield, along with the magazine's two senior editors, its managing editor and associate editor, left American Film after Billboard said it wanted them to give up their full-time salaried positions and become free-lance consultants. They were not asked to relocate with the magazine, she said.
According to Linfield, the new owners thought the magazine was "top-heavy in its editorial department" of 18 full- and part-time staff members, including interns, assistants and contributing editors.
"I'm dismayed," Linfield said, "that when Billboard bought the magazine it said how much it respected the editorial excellence and then turned its back on the minimum manpower necessary to maintain contact with writers and prepare upcoming issues. You can run a McDonald's on a month-to-month basis with temporary employees, but you can't run a magazine that way."
However, Billboard's Haire said five staff members, including West Coast editor James Greenberg, had accepted the free-lance arrangement and the magazine would continue to publish regularly.
Steven Doherty of Billboard's American Artist magazine will serve as its interim editor, Haire said.
Established by the American Film Institute in 1976, the publication has an estimated circulation, including subscriptions, of 140,000. Haire said Billboard will maintain the current arrangement with AFI, which provides the magazine free to its members. It will also continue AFI's Dialogue on Film and Calendar sections within the publication.
Jean Firstenberg, director of AFI, said Thursday that the institute's board of directors approved forming a joint AFI-Billboard advisory board to consult on editorial content of the magazine.
"American Film has meant a great deal to us, but in the current economic climate we were just unable to continue and realized it needed an established publisher," Firstenberg said. "We're pleased to be able to hand it over to Billboard and feel confident it has the capacity to allow it to grow."