Magazine wranglers have been approaching Pitt’s publicist Cindy Guagenti (Jolie does not have a publicist) to express interest in the first baby photo. “We’re getting offers,” says Guagenti. And while she won’t say any more on the subject, it’s a virtual certainty that those offers are quite substantial—because for a celebrity weekly, the value of landing the first exclusive photo of the Brangelina baby is almost incalculable. Certainly, baby photos will send newsstand sales skyrocketing. Last year, for instance, People’s third best-selling issue was the one with Julia Roberts and her twins on the cover; Us’s second best-selling issue in 2005 featured Jolie and her newly adopted daughter, Zahara, on the cover. “If you sell an extra 300,000 or 400,000 copies at $3.50, there’s a million dollars right there,” says an editor at one weekly. Beyond newsstand sales, there’s the ineffable quality of having the thing that everyone wants. “There’s really no price on that,” says the editor. “Just having it is good for the brand to show readers that your magazine is the one that gets these sorts of photos.” Which is why editors, photographers, and publicists all say that the Brangelina-baby photo could fetch at least $1 million.
Only a handful of magazines have deep enough pockets to pay that sort of price. High-end magazines, such as Vogue and Vanity Fair, could easily afford it, but it’s doubtful Jolie would want to give it to one of them, since those magazines have such long lead times—meaning that Jolie, to guarantee that the photo remained an exclusive, would have to keep her baby out of sight for several months after completing a deal.
That leaves the celebrity weeklies as Jolie’s best option, and, according to people in the industry, there are only two willing and able to pay seven figures for a photo. Although the field is still technically wide open, the Brangelina-baby-photo sweepstakes will likely come down to a duel between OK! and People.
OK!, a venerable British publication that has struggled with its new American version, has no qualms about paying celebrities. The magazine recently paid a reported $3 million for photos of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore’s wedding that an editor at another celebrity weekly said “looked like they were taken with a camera phone.” Insiders speculate that OK! could shell out as much as $5 million for the Brangelina-baby photo, in the hope of reversing the magazine’s sagging fortunes in the U.S. (Sarah Ivens, OK!’s editor-in-chief, will only say that the magazine’s offer to Jolie and Pitt is “impressive.”) But many say OK! won’t get the photo for any price. “I’d say there’s a zero percent chance that Brad and Angelina will sell their pictures to OK!” says an editor at a magazine that plans to sit out the bidding war. “Say what you will about Brad and Angelina, but they’re not low-rent.”
That makes People—the Goliath among celebrity weeklies, with a circulation of 3.8 million that is more than double that of its nearest competitor, Us Weekly—the odds-on favorite. “People is so skillful at buying pictures but not telling anyone,” says one publicist. “You can do a photo shoot with People and come across as good parents and still get the money. If you do the same thing with OK!, the perception is that you sold your kid.” Hackett is certainly aware of his magazine’s overdog status in the Brangelina-baby sweepstakes. “Experience has shown we tend to treat these people with fairness, and we’re the biggest magazine,” he says. Still, he strongly implies that $5 million is well out of his range. Which may be why, in an effort to hedge its bets, People appears to be currying Jolie’s favor in other ways. In March, the magazine ran a glowing story about an anti-poverty initiative in the tiny African country of Malawi that Jolie has supported. Some in the industry even claim to detect a creeping anti-Aniston bias in People’s pages. “They’ve been totally ragging on Jen,” says the publicist.
Meanwhile, the other celebrity weeklies are hardly planning to go gently into the night. “I don’t think it’s a given that all photos are going to wind up in People,” insists Life&Style’s Birnbaum. “If that’s the case, we should all just fold and pitch our tents elsewhere.” A source at another weekly talks of crafting a pitch that wins over Pitt and Jolie with its goodwill. “We’ll promote your charity, we’ll throw an auction for your charity, we’ll do articles on it in our magazine, we’ll have our staff go volunteer in Africa or Haiti or wherever.”
But an editor at one celebrity weekly takes a more realistic, or perhaps jaundiced, view. “People’s going to get the picture, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” he says. “We’ll just have to counterprogram. Put Nick and Kristin on the cover that week.”