Big news on the trade paper front: The Hollywood Reporter is scrapping its Women in Entertainment Power 100 rankings. This bombshell announcement comes from the Reporter itself, by way of an article penned by its president and so-called Chief Creative Officer, Janice Min. Presumably you’re asking right about now, “So what? “
The Hollywood Reporter, which dates back to 1930, has long been one of the entertainment industry’s two favorite trade publications. (The other, of course, is Variety, which began covering the movie industry in 1933.) I wrote for The Reporter for over a decade, and so I know how much the paper loves special issues in which successful Hollywood executives and business types are featured. There’s a snappy profile for each person on the list, lots of photos, and maybe a round-table discussion among those at the top of their game. Over the years, I recall lists of the top Hollywood attorneys, the top agents, even the top doctors who cater to showbiz patients. There’s also a NextGen listing of up-and-comers under thirty. This sort of issue is a real revenue-generator: if your attorney or your client or your friend is on the list, you’re expected to take out a full page ad offering your congratulations.
The Women in Entertainment Power 100 started out, as I recall, as a Power 50. This was some 23 years ago, when Sherry Lansing had just made Old Hollywood sit up and take notice by being named chairman of Paramount Pictures. Given the significance of that event, it seemed time to laud women’s accomplishments in the entertainment industry. Over the decades the honor of being on the list led to an invitation to an exclusive lunch, with the media very much present. As I understand it, the Power 100 luncheon will continue. What’s now gone with the wind is the custom of ranking women in terms of their importance to the industry, with the #1 female (perhaps someone like film exec Stacey Snider or Oprah) flatteringly portrayed in living color on The Reporter’s cover.
I always enjoyed writing for the Women in Entertainment issue. It gave me an opportunity to chat with important Hollywood figures, asking about their accomplishments, their aspirations, and how they spent their (rare) leisure time. Each year there were slightly silly questions too: for instance, what profession would they choose if they were not making/selling/promoting movies? We writers never discussed rankings, and were warned never to promise that the women we were interviewing had actually made the list. Nonetheless, the rankings were clearly important, both to them and to their peers. The published article about each woman noted not only her current rank but also her position on the previous year’s list, so it was easy to spot the Reporter’s assessment of who was on the way up, who was stagnating, who was trending downward. I’m told that one episode of TV’s Hollywood-based Entourage revolved around an agent-character (played by Beverly D’Angelo) who connives to move up in rank. The Reporter’s new rationale is that women should not longer be vying against one another in a race to be Hollywood’s top (female) dog.
It was while working on a Women in Entertainment story that I chanced to meet HBO’s queen of documentaries, Sheila Nevins. She had never before been on the list, so of course she was thrilled—and delightful. From year to year, I enjoyed seeing Sheila move up in the rankings. Now I guess she’ll have to settle for being one on a list of one hundred. Which, come to think of it, is plenty good enough.