The truth is that Tina Brown trashed a very fine magazine. Not only did she shift it to the right, she tended to exclude the sort of sharp-edged political commentary that used to find its way into the pages of the New Yorker during the golden age of Harold Ross and William Shawn. I never had that much use for the New Yorker short stories, which always seemed to be about the marital crisis of wasps in Connecticut. But some of the serialized articles were classics, such as "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carsons and "End of Nature" by Bill McKibben which appeared originally in the New Yorker.
Less well known was the absolutely brilliant analysis of the problems of the aircraft construction industry, which basically embodied a Marxist analysis of crises in overproduction. Anybody who could have read these articles and still maintained that capitalism was a rational system had to be on drugs.
There was less and less of this sort of thing under Brown's stewardship. More typical was fawning portraits of political or show business celebrities. I stopped picking it up at the newsstand long ago. One article that I'm sorry I missed had to do with the economics of the movie theater business. The article was cited on the mailing list of the Online Film Critics Society of New York, which I belong to:
To OFCS members:
Good insights into the movie business from The New Yorker, 7/13/98, pp. 34ff. Here is an excerpt from:
MULTIPLEXITIES. By Edward Jay Epstein.
1. In 1929, the year of the first Academy Awards, 95 million people, or 80% of the ambulatory population, went to movies every week.
2. In 1997, weekly average movie attendance was 27 million or just under 10% of the population.
3. Movie theaters used to be huge, like the 6,200 seat Roxy in NY.
4. In 1998 there are only 1/3 as many theaters as in 1929, but now there are more screens, 30,000.
5. 15 chains own 2/3 of all screens.
6. The major studios spent on average $19.2 million in 1997 to advertise each film, excluding ads in fast-food restaurants, toy companies, and other promotional tie-in arrangements.
7. Hollywood Theatres, one of the chains, sold $11 million in Coca Cola last year. $8 million was profit.
8. Stadium seating can yield lots more attendance. This means that every row of seats is elevated 14 inches above the row preceding it, allowing all customers an unimpeded view of the screen. People seek out these theaters and will drive as far as 20 miles to find one that has it. Attendance increased 30% to 52% where one chain owner installed such seating.
9. Teen age boys are not concerned with the quality of the films or even whether they were in focus, as long as there's action and popcorn.
10. Of the 1.4 billion tickets sold last year, 500 million were for the summer season and 230 million were sold between Thanksgiving and New Year's. That's over half sold during this 3-1/2 month period.
11. Marketers talk of five demographic quadrants: a) Under 25, b) over 25, c) male, d) female, e) ethnic groups. A major studio will try to avoid opening a film the same weekend as a competing studio if that film would split up a quadrant. Therefore when Fox noted that "Godzilla" and "Armageddon" would dominate a) males and b) under 25, Fox counterprogramed by scheduling romantic comedies like "Hope Floats" to appeal to a) female and b) over 25.
12. Salt is the secret to financial succss. It drives customers back to the concession stand for drinks where they buy more popcorn.