That's entertainment: the best showbiz mags

Variety Executive Editor Steven Gaydos dives into the world of Hollywood scandal, aggressive PR and tittle-tattle of the glossies. EXCLUSIVE!


HEAT

HEAT

Published by: Emap

Circulation: 540,556

Compared to most of its gossip rag rivals, Heat at least tries for a taste of class and intelligence. A feature deconstructing a letter from Britney Spears to her fans shows the magazine's editors have a sense of humour rather than fawning before a celebrity. And there's actually a proper film review section that dares to suggest Heat's readers aren't just filling up on nonsense. The rest of the reviews are informed and breezy and, unlike most star fashion features, Heat's look at Sienna Miller's clothes sense is light, but bright.

TOTAL FILM

Published by: Future Publishing

Circulation: 90,749

Total Film raises the question: in the internet age, can a film-fan mag really get away with running a Venice film fest feature two months after the event? Otherwise, the film reviews are mostly thoughtful, and compared to some of the UK broadsheets' strained seriousness, refreshingly unpretentious. The reviews seem written with an understanding of the mostly youthful readership, but also with an eye to challenge the readers. TF boasts a solid look at upcoming films, but one should look elsewhere for any real insight into the film industry and/or art.

HELLO!

Published by: Hello! Ltd

Circulation: 361,225

This magazine must be given its due. There's a certain grisly fascination in seven lavishly illustrated photos of the life and interior décors of Michael Bolton. Mind-numbing grand tours of the B-listers homes, cottages and manses aside, Hello! also whips up a strange brew of virtues, from real photojournalism, access to the Royals and recognition that there is life and stardom in Old Europe, all inside a kind of classically styled look that outclasses its rivals. The social-whirl spreads are especially good, if one needs to know which charity ball which starlet, striker or baron has recently attended.

NOW

Published by: IPC

Circulation: 580,007

Looks like Heat's frumpy older sister, with lots of space given to pregnant EastEnders, Jade Goody (regardless of the almost deafening tick, tick, tick of the Big Brother performer's sell-by date), an everywoman's guide to plastic surgery on the cheap and a celeb gossip section led by a piece on Abi Titmuss. Overall, it's a grim trudge through a graphically bereft landscape of diets and naff fashions, with zero sense of celebrity fun or glamour. The only real stars featured in this magazine are represented by cut-and-paste jobs lifted from other publications and the net.

STAR

Published by: Northern & Shell

Circulation: 183,674

You must forgive the laughter, but how can a magazine called Star lead with features on Rebecca Loos, Nadia, Jordan and Kerry McFadden? Help! I'm a celebrity fan-mag reader! Get me out of here! From slapped-together fashion sections to lip-service film and TV reviews, Star sheds no light on any aspect of the entertainment world, except perhaps the PR habits of the Z-list celeb wranglers. Nadia's past life as a prostitute is promoted as a subject of great interest, although it has to be said that much of the competition appeared taken with the same story. I have no idea why.

NATIONAL ENQUIRER

Published by: American Media Inc.

Circulation: not available

Remains the gold standard of the bizarre, laying out a smorgasbord of weird gossip, strung together from NE's global network of tipsters, traitors, hustlers, scribes, insiders, showbiz-watchers and the odd obsessive-compulsive borderline star-stalker. Its pulpy newsprint perfectly matches its tawdry tale-telling. In a strange way, however, NE's breathless dispatches from the trenches of rehab farms, relationship hells and eating disorder clinics smell like the authentic dank side of the Hollywood dream. For those who can't read enough on the Olson Twins' travails and Jacko's latest misadventure.

CLOSER

Published by: Emap

Circulation: 480,187

This has almost zero entertainment value, but is instead a hotchpotch of tragic fashion, diet advice and sad recipes, as well as the odd bad-girl feature on the stock group of BG's from central casting (ie Kate Moss, Paris Hilton, Nadia) just to add spice to the warmed-over dish. Closer appears to have no distinguishing features which would mark it out from the rest of the market, and reads like a mag for people who'd prefer to stay in the dentist's waiting-room reading, rather than actually go to a movie or bump into a celeb in - forbid! - real life.

REVEAL

Published by: National Magazine Company

Circulation: N/A

At least Reveal attempts to offer its readers some glamour or insight into real powerhouse stars, not just tattle on soapsters. Leads with a supposedly inside view of Robbie Williams's love life, or at least the part that is out in the open for the hungry lenses of the paparazzi; the story of the singer's interest in an ordinary girl with an ordinary job provides obvious wish-fulfilment for the mag's readership. A funny piece on body language, as demonstrated by the antics of Rod Stewart and Penny Lancaster, lightens the load of de rigueur dietary tips and bathroom decoration tricks.

CHAT

Published by: IPC

Circulation: 606,599

It isn't for people who go to movies, but for people whose lives might make good TV movies, ie child- and wife-abusers and victims, cancer conquerors, countryside satanists, et al. It's a gritty, grotty little magazine, desperately in need of some real showbusiness light and humour, unless its core readership is so abused that they're afraid to laugh, lest their nasty masters hear them and begin their dirty business all over again. To be fair, Chat has carved out a rather unique niche of readers and appears to be aware of its demographic.

EMPIRE

Published by: Emap

Circulation: 195,410

The one mag for those who love movies and are desperate to know more about the newest Hollywood fare, as well as the international indie offerings. Good features, solid reviews and sensational access to exclusive art from upcoming movies, with stills from all the major films months before they have opened. They also have really good coverage of the DVD market. It's light on frivolous gossip but strong on real industry activity. There is a very good, in-depth feature on The Incredibles. Fun, smart and put together as if movies mattered. A lot. As we say in Variety, "Kudos". (Translation: "Congratulations".)

OK!

Published by: Northern & Shell

Circulation: 553,777

OK! gets into stars' homes and delivers kitsch scoops of UK celeb cribs. Interviews are premasticated and digested by several sets of handlers. For instance, a feature on relationships between older women and younger men, "Boy Toys", could in at least a couple of cases have been called "Boy Beards", as the male escorts were more eye-candy than other halves. Inside there's Hot Stars, with the one-millionth "celebs looking skanky" feature, as well as the "inside" look at Britney Spears and new hubby. Still, with 250 pages, OK! and Hot Stars offer supersized twaddle for hungry gossip gluttons.

NEW!

Published by: Northern & Shell

Circulation: 403,864

This is actually quite a funny product, from its rather saucy fashion sections to its good-humoured approach to Celebland. The magazine sports timely reports, such as up-to-the-second coverage of the National TV Awards, and lots of spicy little snippets that might be light in nutritional value but are brightly illustrated and choc-a-bloc with genuine stars, if not genuine stories. At least the editors know that there's a world of showbiz glamour out there, and their mag exhibits a nice natural lust for the good life.

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