'The September Issue' Opens, Finally, for the Non-Fabulous

What Everyone Is Talking About

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Manhattan has been awash in screenings of "The September Issue" since the documentary premiered at Sundance in January. With most of New York's media elite scoring invites to the Museum of Modern Art and Soho House screenings, who was left to buy movie tickets when the film finally opened Aug. 28? Turns out, lots of people. R.J. Cutler's look at the making of the biggest issue of Vogue in its 117-year history raked in more than a quarter of a million dollars in three days on just six screens. That's an average of $40,000 a screen, enough to make it the fifth-highest-grossing documentary debut of all time. (That would buy you barely two full-page color ads in the magazine, by the way.) Despite layers of buzz -- including an appearance by Editor in Chief Anna Wintour on "David Letterman" -- the film, however frothy and entertaining, doesn't offer much insight beyond what you already know if you've seen the "The Devil Wears Prada."

GRACE UNDER FIRE: Coddington proves a perfect foil to Wintour.
GRACE UNDER FIRE: Coddington proves a perfect foil to Wintour.
Vogue's editors and stylists are an eclectic cast of characters, and they're the first to admit how silly what they do must seem to outsiders uninterested in what they wear. But the staff's passion for draping beautiful clothes on beautiful people is more compelling than you'd think; watching them run amok orchestrating their individual visions while compiling what is often referred to as "fashion's bible" is tres amusing. The real scene stealer is Grace Coddington, the magazine's creative director, whose eye for composition and penchant for romanticism are a brilliant foil to Anna Wintour's celeb-focused, budget-conscious decisions. It's a symbiotic (some say codependent) relationship -- Wintour guiding the trends, Coddington making them pop on paper.

If art indeed imitates life, what would Cutler's take be on the September 2009 issue of Vogue, a hungrier-looking cousin to the 840-page titular issue that's down 37% in ad pages from 2008? "The September Issue," we're told, represents a new year of aspiration and inspiration that serves to fuel the $300 billion fashion industry. And as long as Ms. Wintour sits at the helm of that industry, as she has for two decades and counting, the mystique of Vogue's brand is unlikely to fade. Whether the movie will muster even a blip on the magazine's performance radar this year has yet to be seen.

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