|Circulation||81,221 per issue (Jan - Dec 2019)|
Print and digital editions.
|First issue||May 1989|
David Hepworth of Emap, the publisher of British music magazines Q and Smash Hits, among other titles, came up with the idea to publish a magazine similar to Q, but for films. They recruited Smash Hits editor, Barry McIlheney, to edit the new magazine, with Hepworth as Editorial Director. Hepworth produced a one-page document of what he wanted to achieve. Among them, they planned to review and rate every film that was released in the cinema in the United Kingdom. It also said that "Empire believes that movies can sometimes be art, but they should always be fun." The first edition (June/July 1989) was published in May 1989 with Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder on the front cover from the film Great Balls of Fire!. The first issue reached its target of 50,000 copies sold.
Film reviews were given a star rating between 1 and 5, with no half stars.
McIlheney edited the first 44 issues with assistant editor, Phil Thomas, who had been working on the magazine since it started, taking over from the March 1993 issue. Thomas became managing editor in 1995 with Q Features Editor Andrew Collins taking over as Empire editor from issue 73 (July 1995), however, after 3 issues, he became editor of Q after Danny Kelly left and Empire Features Editor, Mark Salisbury, was promoted to Editor.
A compilation of their film reviews was published in 2006 as the Empire Film Guide.
Empire has had ten editors:
Empire reviews both mainstream films and art films, but feature articles concentrate on the former.
As well as film news, previews, and reviews, Empire has some other regular features. Each issue (with the exception of issues 108-113) features a Classic Scene, a transcript from a notable film scene. The first such classic scene to be featured was the "I coulda been a contender" scene from On the Waterfront.
The Re.View section covers Blu-ray and DVD news and releases. Kim Newman's Movie Dungeon is a regular feature in the Re.View section, in which critic Kim Newman reviews the most obscure releases, mostly low budget horror movies. Newman has written for Empire since the first issue.
How Much Is A Pint Of Milk? presents celebrities' answers to silly or unusual questions, including the question "How much is a pint of milk?" This is intended as a guide to the chosen celebrity's contact with reality, and as such can be more informative than a direct interview by reporting some surprising responses. Willem Dafoe was the first interviewee in issue 59 (May 1994).
Each magazine includes a "Spine Quote", in which a relatively challenging quote is printed on the spine of the magazine. There are usually some obvious and obscure links from the quote to the main features of that month's edition. Readers are invited to identify the film source and the links to win a prize.
A regular feature since Raging Bull featured in issue 167 (May 2003), the Empire Masterpiece is a two-page essay on a film selected by Empire in the Re.View section. The selection of the films seem to be quite random and follow no specific pattern. Only a few issues since the first masterpiece feature have not featured one - 179, 196-198 and 246. Issue 241 (June 2009) had director Frank Darabont select 223 masterpieces.L.A. Confidential and Magnolia have been featured twice.
My Movie Mastermind was another regular in which a celebrity was given questions about the films they were in or they directed. Celebrities range from Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Lee (who were at the top of the scoreboard) to John Carpenter and Michael Keaton (who were at the bottom of the scoreboard). The feature first appeared in issue 212 (February 2007) with Terry Gilliam.
In 2001, Empire published a series of guides to the best films by genre including science fiction, horror, crime, action and comedy.
Empire published a special 15th anniversary issue in June 2004 by which time the magazine had reviewed 4,240 theatrical films. Nicole Kidman was named "actress of our lifetime" and Kevin Spacey was named "actor of our lifetime". A list of the 15 most influential films of the preceding 15 years was featured.
As part of its 18th birthday issue published in June 2007 Empire published a list of top 18-rated moments in film. They also selected the 50 greatest films rated with an 18 certificate.
Empire occasionally poll readers to find out what their favourite films are.
In March 2006, a readers' poll of The 201 Greatest Movies of All Time had The Shawshank Redemption (1994) as the number one choice.
The list was selected in September 2008 by over 10,000 Empire readers, 150 film makers and 50 film critics. The list was accompanied by many different covers, each of which went on sale. The list was topped by The Godfather (1972) and the list's most represented director was Steven Spielberg, who had eleven films in the top 500.
In 2017, Empire surveyed five thousand readers to produce a list of the 100 greatest films ever made which was once again topped by The Godfather.
In June 2005, a poll of 10,000 readers was asked to name the greatest film director of all time. In a list of forty directors, Steven Spielberg was granted the honour of greatest director.
From 1996, Empire organised the annual Empire Awards, voted for by readers of the magazine, which were originally sponsored by Sony Ericsson, and from 2009 sponsored by Jameson. The last awards were held in 2018.