Newsstand: 1925: Theatre Magazine

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a virtual newsstand from the summer of 1925

Overview

           Theatre served as the most popular form of entertainment during the

early 1900s. The American Theatre was still in development during

this time. From the 1880s to the early 1900s, Americans would

experiment with multiple styles and forms of theatre. One magazine to

capture this delicate process was Theatre, later renamed Theatre

Magazine. Frank Mott in A History of American Magazines calls Theatre Magazine “quite the most ambitious attempt in American theatrical history to present adequate representation of the stage in a periodical.”

 

History

 

Our Players’ Gallery, first published in 1900, was renamed Theatre in 1901 in New York. In August of 1917, it was renamed again as Theatre Magazine. This change may have been to set the magazine apart from a new theatre magazine that started about the same time called Theatre Arts Magazine. The last issue of Theatre Magazine was published on April 1931. By 1925, this monthly magazine sold for 35¢ an issue and for $4 for a yearly subscription. Lois and Paul Meyer founded the magazine, with Arthur Hornblow serving as editor from 1901. The magazine had two other editors by its end: Perriton Maxwell and Stewart Reach.

In the first issue of the magazine as Theatre, the editors described the purpose of the magazine as being to win “favor among the great general public” in hopes that the public will become “always interested in the doings at the theatre and its people.” They also promised to only support that which would “elevate the tone of the stage and add to the dignity of the profession of the artiste”(V.1, n.3, pg 1). On April 26, 1925, a celebration was held in honor of Theatre Magazine’s 25th anniversary. This celebration, held at the Hotel Waldorf-Astoria, had over 1,000 guests including actors, actresses, playwrights, and critics. The magazine itself included an article in the June 1925 issue that covered this celebration. This celebration is proof of its acceptance by the theatre community as a whole and as the accomplishment of the magazine’s goal.(1)

Contents

 

Theatre Magazine does indeed cover all aspects of the theatre: interviews on actors and actresses of the stage, playwrights’ and critics’ commentaries, highlights of plays, and even the fashions presented on the stage. One particular reason why the magazine was respected in its time is due to the contributions of prominent critics and actors.

As the namesake magazine for the theatre, magazine obviously concerned itself mostly with the plays themselves. The editor Arthur Hornblow had his own section titled “Mr. Hornblow Goes to the Plays” in which he would give his personal critique of the current plays, a brief summation, and  a decision whether the play is worth a person’s time and money or not. The magazine offered highlights of current plays, providing summaries and photographs, interviews with respectable actors or actresses, and often scripts, partial or complete, of a play.

As movie and radio technologies developed, Theatre Magazine included them in the magazine itself. “Screenland,” a section devoted to film, usually centered around a common element such as Romance, and it discussed this element throughout the film industry and current films. The magazine analyzed the films much as they would critique a play. The section titled “Radio” devoted its page to the developing technology for which it is named, recommending and reviewing available stations.  Theatre Magazine did embrace the radio as a new form of entertainment and a new way to experience familiar settings altogether (such as listening to an orchestral concert while watching the sunset on the front porch of your house). The magazine strategically accepted film and radio as compliments to the art of entertainment rather than competitors.

Finally, the magazine featured a section called the “Play Guide,” devoted to the visitors of New York, which suggested places to visit as well as an overview of possible entertainment venues, mainly recommendations of current plays. By doing so, the magazine attempted to spread its community to a larger audience.

Advertising

 

The advertising in Theatre logically centers on the theatre experience, focusing on the enjoyment of a night out to the theatre. These ads range from Lincoln automobiles to cigarettes. Towards the end of the magazine, a large portion of the ads refer to beauty products, appropriate for a night out at the theatre, as well as popular restaurants and beauty parlors within the city. And since everybody connected to theatre read this magazine, including play managers, ads included items for the theatre itself such as theatre seats. The majority of advertisements were placed towards the back of the magazine amongst the continuations of the articles.

Final Curtain

 

           Theatre Magazine last published in April 1931. The exact reason as to why is still up for speculation. Some possible reasons include the fall of the economy after the stock market crash in October 1929. Many theatres converted to film, many others closed because they could not compete. There were nearly 1,500 theatres outside of New York in the 1920s; this number fell to 500 by the 1930s.(2) In 1927, the silent movies were no longer silent and this development secured the “triumph of the moving picture as the medium for popular entertainment.”

—Contextualization by Aric Brisolara

 

Notes

 

1. Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938.

2. Hewett, Barnard. Theatre U.S.A. 1665 to 1957. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, INC, 1959.

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click cover for magazine

June 1925

Genre:

Arts and Entertainment

Publisher:

The Theatre Publishing Company

Place of Publication:

New York

Years of Run:

1901-1931

Frequency of Publication:

Monthly

Circulation in 1925: