This week New Empress Film Magazine celebrates 12 months in print and thus its first jubilee. To rejoice, our Editor in Chief: Helen Cox was going to re-enact the scene from Die Hard in which Bruce Willis attaches himself to a fire hose and then jumps from a skyscraper. Sadly we didn’t have the budget for that, and Helen is scared of heights anyway, so she settled for publishing an article about the magazine’s inception and how it has evolved since issue one. Yippee ki yay…
Just over a year ago, when I first decided to start a film magazine one of the most complicated decisions I had to make was what to name the new publication. When advising his somewhat trippy co-worker Mark about starting up a band, Lucas in Empire Records states: “First thing you need is a name, then you’ll know what kind of band you’ve got.” It seemed to me that christening a new film publication shouldn’t be any different. Sadly, Totally Film [or some similar variation] was already taken.
Given that the name of a magazine is pretty much a statement of identity and because it was very important to me that this was a magazine about cinema as well as about film, we immediately began a search, through the National Archives in Kew, for vanished picture houses with inspirational handles. As expected there were a lot of Regals, Regents and Rialtos. There was even an Atomic [being more than a little bit obsessed with Blondie I did ponder that one for some time] but it was the New Empress, a skating rink turned cinema that once stood in Nottingham [opened in 1912] , that finally took my fancy.
The name evoked a time in film history when a night out at the pictures possessed a certain majesty. An era in which Wurlitzer’s chimed, when fine printed programmes were dished out to punters and when auditoriums were positively packed with patrons eager to discover what the relatively new medium of motion pictures would deliver next. It is also a name that connotes quality; improving the quality of each issue produced has been the primary aim since issue one.
Evidently, however, you cannot bestow a brand with a name like New Empress in the 21 st Century without it being open to a full-blown gender reading. The name of the magazine is innocently enough named after an old cinema and yet almost everybody I know asked me on the launch (one or two asked me repeatedly and risked a sharp punch in the bajingo) whether or not New Empress was a feminist magazine. Just the other day somebody [a year in] told me they thought you had to be a woman to read our publication.
Admittedly having a woman holding a torch on our masthead probably only adds to the confusion, but Columbia Pictures have a woman holding a torch on their logo and I’ve never heard anyone ask if they’re a feminist film studio. I’m not entirely sure what a feminist magazine looks like. Certainly the fact that New Empress is a film magazine produced and edited by a woman within what is largely deemed a man’s domain may be grounds enough for some to dub us ‘feminist’. In terms of our editorial however we don’t publish articles such as ‘Females in Film: Why they’re better than men’, as explained in a Guardian article last year our coverage is aimed neither at men nor at women. We just aim to inform and entertain people who love cinema and film. Hopefully this is evident from our front covers which bear neither a half-naked Megan Fox nor a bored-looking action hero but quirky, and yes geeky, illustrative mash-ups of film concepts we love.
When people question me further on the chosen name of New Empress, and they frequently do, I refer them to the immortal wisdom of Joss Whedon who received a certain measure of flack for producing a show entitled Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whedon claimed, in more than one interview that I read during the show’s peak, that the name was a test for the potential viewer. If they were willing to get over the absurdness of the name and enjoy the show for what it was they would more than likely find themselves entertained, engrossed, moved even. Those who would be ashamed to be caught watching a show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer probably wouldn’t have fully appreciated the acerbic wit and irony of the show anyway.
In many respects the same can be said of our publication. We’re not for just anyone, but that’s okay. If you are a man who wouldn’t feel comfortable walking into a shop asking for a copy of something called New Empress magazine then it makes it a bit difficult for us to build a relationship with you (although if you visit our website nobody will know and you should know that we ship the magazine in very discrete unmarked envelopes!). If you’re unfazed by our rather feminine sounding name, however, it means you’re interested enough in cinema and film to overcome the prospect of looking like a bit of a pansy. And for this we salute you. As for the ladies, we hope you don’t miss the sex ads that are traditional at the back of film magazines but if you do, let us know. We might be able to come to some kind of amicable arrangement.
A full article on the New Empress cinema in Nottingham is available in issue one of our print magazine. Limited copies still available .