|| ABOUT PANORAMA||May 13 - May 26, 2013|
Good as Gold
Panorama celebrates its golden 50th anniversary
by Rita A. Fucillo, May 28, 2001
I was 12 years old when Panorama magazine celebrated its 25th anniversary and I remember plastering its shiny, silver commemorative stickers everywhere. I still have a handful that I discovered amidst 50 years worth of clippings and photographs tracing the history of Jerome Press Publications. I admit I'm biased-writing a short retrospective on Panorama overwhelms me with pride.
I grew up in the offices of Jerome Press Publications and its affiliated companies and can still hear the hum of the presses. The soundproof doors couldn't muffle that lulling, rhythmic hum, which became a thunderous assault of sound as you walked into the pressroom. I loved the smell of the ink and the whoosh of the paper as it fed through the Kelly presses. I was in awe of the machines, the pressmen at work, and the pages and pages of words and pictures that, after simple folding, cutting and binding, would become a magazine. I knew someday I'd write and, in fact, wrote my first Panorama "editorial" for a school project when I was 15, years before I enjoyed a turn as editor.
Rita K. Fucillo, my late aunt, was president and publisher at Jerome Press. Her scrapbooks date back to the early '50s when she joined Jerome Rosenfeld's family-owned printing company. Founded in the late 1890s by Lewis Rosenfeld, Jerome's grandfather, the company was on its way to becoming one of Boston's most prominent and influential businesses. Lewis was joined by his son Maurice in 1904 and Jerome followed after graduating from Brown University. What amazes me as I look at the frail papers, "mimeographed" press releases and galleys from the linotype ("hot" type) machine is how the most vital aspects of this company haven't changed and how Panorama is still a proud reflection of the company's integrity and dedication to the printing industry and to the city of Boston.
Panorama is, after all, dedicated to Boston-its visitors, merchants and residents. In 1950, Jerome Rosenfeld was approached by the Hotel Association of Boston to design a publication catering to the visitor market, showcasing Boston's cultural attractions, historical sights, sports, restaurants and nightlife. "Mayor launches Panorama, New Guide to Boston," read the headline of Panorama's first press release. Sleek, digest-sized and printed bi-weekly-as it is today-Panorama was an instant success and hailed by Mayor John B. Hynes as filling a long-felt need in the city for an official guide. It is, and has always been, the only guide magazine distributed in the rooms of all Boston's major hotels- another important key to its longevity. It was also found on newsstands, airline counters and train stations, accessible to every traveler via any mode of travel.
As Panorama was reporting Boston's cultural events, Rosenfeld and Fucillo were creating them through supporting the arts community. Rosenfeld founded the Boston Arts Festival in the early '50s, served on the boards of the Boston Opera Group, the Metropolitan Arts Center and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). Fucillo later became president of the League of Boston Theatres. Together, after Panorama's introduction, they devised a plan to promote subscriptions to the magazine ($1.98 for six months) through the concept of a theater club offering ticket discounts, premier seating and advance notice of shows. It was a brilliant idea: link the city's entertainment guide to the actual entertainment. Panorama's Show of the Month Club premiered in 1956, spreading rapidly into other major theater cities including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Show of the Month Club celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2006. All business endeavors should turn out so well. Also by the mid-'50s, Jerome Press dominated every conceivable demographic with 11 publications, including Panorama; On Stage; On Screen (reaching the discriminating moviegoer); Good Listening (for FM listeners); The Metropolitan Opera, New England Opera and Celebrity Series programs; Boston's Bridal, Welcome Baby and Your New Home magazines; and The Harvard Guide Magazine. Panorama and the Club were thriving and both were written about consistently in local and national newspapers. In 1965, Panorama was named the Top Guide Magazine by the Guide Magazines Group, chosen from more than 212 entrants. That same year, in a congratulatory letter from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Panorama was praised for rendering an "invaluable service to the community.and one of the finest tools we have to offer."
And yet Rosenfeld imagined more. The Club's popularity and clout gave new plays and musicals a solid insurance policy when playing Boston. Fucillo was traveling the country, monitoring their operations in other cities, scouting shows and launching a travel division. By the '60s and into the '70s, the pair was presenting shows locally and producing them nationally and internationally. And in the early '60s, On Stage became Playbill and Jerome Press Publications became the headquarters of Northeast Playbill. Rosenfeld and Fucillo's combined passion for theater eventually led them into the glorious Colonial Theatre, which they operated throughout the '80s, while simultaneously producing theater, running the Club and publishing Panorama, Playbill and Theatrebill. After deciding not to renew their lease on the Colonial, they turned their focus back on the visitor market and, once again, at the request of the Greater Boston Hotel Association, were chosen to produce an in-room Visitors Channel based on, naturally, Panorama magazine. The Panorama Television Network brought them full circle, though their commitment to the printed word never wavered.
Fucillo was quoted as saying that a business needs "imagination and a hell of a lot of guts" in order to succeed. "You can't sit back and do what you always have done," she said, "You must listen and look at the public." Today, Panorama still listens to its public-the visitors, merchants and residents of Boston. And under a revitalized leadership with an imaginative outlook, combined with Rosenfeld's ageless wisdom, I know I'll be asked to write this article again when Panorama turns 100.
Rita A. Fucillo is the former editor of Panorama and Playbill magazines. She has also served as the Director of Communications for the Wang Center for the Performing Arts.