Sign of the Times: Biz gets fresh face

Calendar section gets retooling

HOLLYWOOD — The invitation is not exactly subtle.

“The Los Angeles Times would like to invite you to celebrate a new era in entertainment journalism,” it trumpets. At the Oct. 9 event at L.A. Center Studios, it promises “a wonderful view of Downtown” and “a wonderful fete of culinary delights.”

That all sounds, well, wonderful. But the point of the celebration is a soon-to-be-revealed retooling of the paper’s Calendar section. As for a new era, the industry verdict remains out.

“We read it because it’s there every day in our back yard,” reasons one studio marketing topper. “The real test will be if everybody reads it because they have to read it.”

After years of soul-searching about its showbiz mission, Hollywood’s hometown paper has decided to divide its Sunday Calendar into two broadsheet sections: one for film and television, one for art, theater and music.

The two-part approach is similar to that taken by the New York Times, from which many of the L.A. Times brass emigrated.

The daily Calendar will also get goosed — “new features and bolder attitude,” the invitation crows — with the Southern California Living section reportedly on the way out.

A long-promised additional film critic was recently added (Manohla Dargis) and more restaurant and book reviews are in the works.

Better placement of edgier Hollywood stories is already occurring at the Times. On the morning of the Emmys, for instance, TV biz veterans awoke to a Page One piece questioning the value of the entire TV award exercise.

A flap over scenes in “Barbershop” targeted by Jesse Jackson and other activists also earned a spot near the fold — an unheard-of placement in years past. A new “World Cinema” feature has also popped up in Calendar.

Top L.A. Timesmen, who spent the last week of September presenting their vision to the staff at large, were determined to keep the wraps on the new look and declined to elaborate on their plans.

An array of editors and writers are due to materialize at the Oct. 9 affair, though — “an evening to remember,” predicts the invite.

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