Life is making a comeback.
Time Inc. announced yesterday that the famous photo journal that died in 1972 at the age of 36 will be published regularly again beginning in October.
The magazine will have the familiar red and white logo, but larger than before, and will be the same size. But it will be a monthly.
"It's an entirely different equation," Time Board Chairman Andrew Heiskell said. "The old Life was sold in large quantities at relatively low prices and the new will be sold in relatively small quantities at relatively high prices."
The old weekly was selling at 50 cents on newsstands and 14 cents per copy to subscribers when it went under after losing about $30 million in its last four years.
Life will sell for $1.50 a copy whether on the stands or by subscription when it reappears. "I doubt that we'll get too man (readers) at those prices," Meiskell said.
Too many readers was part of Life's problem. It had a circulation of more than 6 million and was, in effect, combining with television for the most expensive advertising.
Times hopes that the new advertising base will be 700,000 each month. Each copy will be 120 pages with 80 of them budgeted for editorial material.
The old joke that a writer for Life was like a photographer for the Reader's Digest (which doesn't run pictures) will be truer than it ever was in the old days.
"There will be a good deal less text," Ralph Graves, Life's last managing editor and now Time Inc. corporate editor, said. Plans call for one major article each issue, either an assigned story or a book excerpt.
Heiskell and Graves also say the staff will be considerably smaller and the expense of reporting stories much less because, as a monthly, Life will not be chasing yesterday's news.
We certainly won't dispatch hordes of reporters and photographers to cover a breaking story," Graves said. The old Life once sent nearly 100 people to cover a papal ceremony.
There will be about 35 editorial staff members compared to the 177 who were abroad when the old Life folded. Graves said the editor and publisher will be named soon, and that the new Life's leadership will be drawn from people already working at Time Inc.
There will be no staff photographers, but Graves plans for a network of stringers and a few one-man bureaus around the world: "People who recognize good pictures and know where to get them."
Plans for the new Life were made by Time's magazine development group which launched the widely successful People. Time's announcement yesterday came less than a week after the corporation announced record revenues and earnings for the first quarter of 1978. Net income rose 39 percent over the first quarter of 1977 to $21 million on revenues of $345.5 million.
In the interval since Life collapsed, there have been 10 successful single issues of the magazine which encouraged Time to plan the magazine's regular revival. These Life Special Reports were five pictorial reviews of the year and issues on Israel. "Remarkable American Woman," "One Day in the Life of America," "100 Events that Shaped America" and "The New Youth."
In pre-television years, Life more than any other publication, made the unfamiliar familiar to America. In its pages they found the faces of foreign leaders, scenes from exotic and, always the wars.
"Though we did not plan Life is a war magazine," its founder Henry R. Luce once said ruefully, "it turned out that way."
Life published the first photograph of American dead during World War II - three soldiers lying on the beach at Buna in the Pacific. Combat photographer Robert Capa's famous picture of a soldier in the Spanish Civil War at the moment a bullet hit him appeared in Life. Capa was killed in Vietnam by a land mine.
For all the fame of its photographs, Life also was a home for many distinguished writers - Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" appeared in the Sept. 1, 1952, issue. Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, James Michener and Norman Mailer, among others, wrote for Life.
Life also was famous for its illustrated articles on everything from space to human reproduction. In 1938, it was banned in 33 American cities because of its article "The Birth of a Baby."