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Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805094334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805094336
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Academic Elberse explains the entertainment industry’s blockbuster strategy, a risky approach that involves large resource allocation to acquire, develop, and market concepts with strong “hit” potential to offset average returns from other holdings. The entertainment industry includes fiercely competitive film, television, and music production companies; publishing houses; sports; and the nightlife market serving clubgoers and featuring high-profile DJs. The author’s intent is not to make a value judgment on entertainment products but, rather, to explain the workings of entertainment markets and describe the strategies that lead to success in attracting large numbers of consumers. Elberse notes that the blockbuster principles and practices of show business extend to other industries, citing Apple’s approach to selling computers, smartphones, and other hardware and Victoria’s Secret’s fashion shows with live performances and superstar models. Noting an increase in more competitive “winner-take-all” markets, the author concludes that “the business world . . . can learn quite a bit from the entertainment industry.” This thought-provoking book will appeal to students of all ages, those in the classroom and well beyond. --Mary Whaley

Review

*** One of Amazon's Best Books of 2013 ***

*** One of The Globe and Mail's Best Business Books of 2013 ***

"How come so many movies are sequels, adaptations and reboots? Why do music studios spend so much on just a handful of superstar artists? And since when did TV shows become so lush and sophisticated? . . . [Elberse’s] great new book, Blockbusters, explains that the . . . questions share one answer. The blockbuster strategy—betting more and more money on fewer and fewer titles—has taken over the entertainment world."—TheAtlantic.com

"In her new book Blockbusters …[Elberse] argues quite convincingly that in the music industry (in addition to cinema, television, books, and more) record labels are most profitable when they focus their funds on a small number of big-shot, can’t-miss juggernauts."—Billboard

"Forceful . . . Elberse analyzes the realm of culture with a rigorous, numbers-driven approach."—The Boston Globe

"Persuasive… Elberse’s research has now culminated in the publication of her first book, Blockbusters, in which she makes a bold…case against fiscal timidity in the entertainment industry."—Bloomberg Businessweek

"Convincing… Elberse's Blockbusters builds on her already impressive academic résumé to create an accessible and entertaining book."—Financial Times

"Blockbusters demonstrates that [a blockbuster] strategy usually beats the more cautious approach of spreading around lower-amount investments in a larger number of projects, a recipe for mediocrity that seldom captures the public’s imagination."—Forbes

"A compelling answer for those who wonder why Hollywood seems obsessed with superheroes and all hit songs sound alike. The formula works. . . [In Blockbusters,] Elberse delivers an accessible, convincing accounting for the ways in which contemporary entertainment is produced, marketed and consumed."—Kirkus Reviews

"As Blockbusters reveals, pursuing projects with high risk and high reward is actually the best long-term business model."—Omnivoracious.com

"The book effectively explains the paradox of why more entertainment channels result in fewer choices, and offers a welcome respite from the usual business titles."—Publishers Weekly

"Fortunate readers of the book are claiming that Anita Elberse’s Blockbusters is a compelling answer to those wondering why Hollywood seems obsessed with superheroes. Her book merits, not one, two, but three readings."—SciFied.com

"In Blockbusters, Anita Elberse… argues that the blockbuster strategy—a broad formula that assumes investing in big potential winners will account for a disproportionate share of returns—now governs consumer markets, from restaurants and hotels to electronics." —The Wall Street Journal

"Good books merit a second reading—Blockbusters merits at least three. First, read it for fun. Anita Elberse describes the history of how blockbuster products and star entertainers were built. If you’ve ever read arguments about whether leaders are made or born, you’ll love this. Then read it again for Elberse’s model, which explains the process by which hits and stars are made. This will make you feel like Columbus discovering a world that has long existed but few have seen. Then read it a third time, using her model to understand how other stars – leaders in politics, business and academia, for starters – often can be built in the same way. There is hope – because the world truly is entertaining. Blockbusters is a delightful, thought-provoking book."—Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator's Dilemma


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Customer Reviews

This book is well researched, and expertly written.
S. Power
Blockbusters is a quick read at around 250 pages and it's interesting to read how the concept applies to sports teams, publishing, music, movies, and more.
takingadayoff
This book provides a score of examples from the entertainment industry that showcase the evolving strategy of blockbuster bets.
Sean Austin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Liebo on October 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I am generally leery of books where the author posits a provocative wide-ranging thesis. Its probably largely Malcolm Gladwell's fault. So naturally I approached Anita Elberse's Blockbusters with some trepidation. She makes the claim that focusing on high-stakes major campaigns is essential to succeeding in today's entertainment industry and she employs a plethora of examples and research from movies, sports, books, music, and television to support her case. While it can be a bit dry at times, Blockbusters is a very informative and often fascinating examination of the current and future state of the entertainment industry and the increasing importance of tentpole products and campaigns.

Elberse is a professor at the Harvard Business School who understandably brings a wealth of knowledge regarding the industry. She also has experience researching topics such as the economic effects of the unbundling of songs from albums on the music industry (bad for record labels). Elberse has built up quite an impressive list of contacts (she actually just co-wrote an article with Sir Alex Ferguson), which greatly enriches the book. Blockbusters is able to glean insights from major players such as Maria Sharapova's agent and Alan Horn, the former president of Warner Bros. Rather than speculating on the strategies behind campaigns, Elberse is able to pick the brains of decision makers.

The book's main concept is an intriguing and seemingly counter-intuitive approach to entertainment. Essentially, the strategy of hedging bets with a diverse portfolio of products is not the path to profitability for entertainment entities. They should instead promote a few projects and bet big on their success.
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Format: Hardcover
Anita Elberse’s new book, Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment, convincingly argues that seeking blockbusters is the best economic strategy for symbolic businesses even in the Internet era. The Internet makes possible an unlimited diversity of digital content and services. That encourages belief that fragmentation of audiences and the proliferation of niche products will control business success. However, the Internet also enhances social influence that concentrates attention and purchases on the most popular symbolic products. In current business reality, enhancing social influence is more important. The most profitable business strategy is using all available communication tools to make a particular symbolic package highly popular: a blockbuster.

Social influence is hugely important. Persons learn about goods through other people. Valuations of goods are closely related to what persons perceive to be other persons’ valuations of goods. As Elberse explains, a film’s earnings can be well predicted from its opening weekend box office receipts. Opening weekend receipts depend on extensive pre-opening promotion and securing wide theatrical distribution. Because popularity and currency create value in social communication, economies of scale exist in marketing and promotion. To be a potential blockbuster, a film has to be good. But being good isn’t sufficient. Expensive, complex, and creative marketing and promotion creates blockbusters.[2] The Internet has changed means for marketing and promotion, but not the underlying economics of marketing and promotion.

Reduced distribution costs and globalized symbolic markets increase producers’ operating leverage.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By MIKKEL MARETTI on November 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have followed the work of Anita Elberse through the Harvard Business School newsletter Working Knowledge for a number years now. I have always enjoyed reading her work and I found it of particular relevance for the discussion which ensued after the publication of the Long Tail by Chris Anderson. I think that it is very reasonable that AE comprises her work over a number of years into a book because I believe she has valid point to make. Most of the book is a solid showing based on a well-thought and valid theory backed by empirical evidence. So why the One star ?
The problem in my opinion is one which I will refer to as "theoretical overreach". The sciences in general and the social sciences in particular have proved a lot less "scientific" than the ideal of positive physics, according to their own criteria. Even though the track record of predictions is very thin, and the reliability of data more often than not very questionable the quest remains the same: to create a theoretical framework which can explain the world at large.
In the case of AE she has a theory which has a lot to say when it comes to how the movie and the music industry work but that is not enough. Thus she wants her theory to be universal in the sense that it shall be able to explain the dynamics in all business ventures which can even remotely be considered to be part of the entertainment industry. And that is where in my humble opinion the "overreach" sets in because the theory is simply not a good fit with European football and possibly not with NY nightlife either.
The One star is the rating given for chapter 3 which is the chapter where I feel I have something to add to the discussion. Thus I will focus my review entirely on chapter 3.
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