1979 seems like yesterday

By Ruth L Ratny

Twenty-five years ago, in January, 1979, I launched Screen the Weekly Newsletter. My friend, the astrologer Laurie Brady, advised an auspicious start would be on the new moon of Jan. 29, a time of new beginnings.

Auspicious astrologically perhaps, but not on Planet Earth. Screen bowed during a wicked blizzard and a SAG actors strike at a time when the once- thriving film business was fading to black.

(What was personally auspicious, though, was being named 1979 Advertising Woman by the Women’s Ad Club, and the Advertising Person of the Year by the regional AAF.)

As it turned out, we forged a community where none had existed before.

We defined geographical boundaries. And by painful accumulation of reasonably accurate gross sales of companies within different production categories, we could estimate the size of the market ? to everyone’s utter shock.

Back in ’79 no one could believe that corporate films spending was $50 million a year. Or that the music business was a sweet-sounding $30 million. Or that labs processed $22 million worth of film a year. Even the list of some 20 local production companies was astonishing.

Once the surprise of having a real, sizeable community subsided, filmmakers began realizing their strengths and acted on them. The Second City Syndrome that had plagued this market for years gradually and finally disappeared.

Throughout the next two-plus decades, Original Screen Magazine was the driving community force, its heart and heartbeat. In fact, during the late ’80s Screen was credited with attracting 25% of out-of-town non- theatrical business to Chicago.

We were innovators, too. We launched the Screen Bible, exclusively for filmmakers. Held several successful expos, innumerable seminars and initiated the networking experience with our Schmoozarama networking party.

ReelChicago.com is a continuation of our original mission to bring you exclusive, useful Chicago production news. Since our launch a year ago, our readership has become the largest for a virtual or print publication.

You’ll see many new features on the ‘zine this year, starting with Backtalk. This is where you can comment on a story or give us a heads up on news. As always, your news, photos, story ideas, columns and commentary are always welcome. Send an Email to Ruth@ReelChicago.com, or call us at 312/274- 9980.