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The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood Paperback – January 10, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (January 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812973828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812973822
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #261,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A rich adventure that will change the way you look at the movies.”
–BusinessWeek

“Edward Jay Epstein is here to tell us that when it comes to Hollywood these days, we’ve got it all wrong.”
–The Washington Post Book World

“One of the virtues of The Big Picture is Mr. Epstein’s astonishing access to numbers that the movie studios go to great lengths to keep secret. . . . A groundbreaking work that explains the inner workings of the game.”
–The Wall Street Journal

“Hollywood has needed one of these for a long time–a user’s manual. This one could not be more complete. . . . [Grade] A.”
–Entertainment Weekly

“Entertaining and enlightening.”
–The New York Sun

About the Author

Edward Jay Epstein is author of a number of books, including Inquest: The Warren Commission, News from Nowhere: Television and the News, Establishment of Truth, Legend: Lee Harvey Oswald, and Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer. He lives in New York City.


From the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

I studied government at Cornell and Harvard, and received a Ph.D from Harvard in 1973. My master's thesis on the search for political truth ("Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth" and my doctoral dissertation ("News From Nowhere") were both published as books. I taught political science at MIT and UCLA. I have now written 14 books. My website www.edwardjayepstein.com)

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By MKM on March 16, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An informative read that will provide the reader with a good understanding and overview of the economics of the film industry. The author provides a brief history of the major studios (consolidated into the current Big Six: Disney, Time Warner, Fox, Viacom, NBC Universal, and Sony) at the beginning and the leading men that transformed the business from post WWII into the eighties and nineties. These men provided the initial vision for licensing, international distribution, integration with home electronics and the continuing digitization of the industry.

The economics for the industry are that films at the US box office are money losers but once the revenue streams from International Box Office, DVD, Pay TV, Network TV, Foreign TV, product licensing and other forms of distribution are collected even box office failures can break even or even become profitable. The studios have developed a compensation system for the major players in the process to share in the revenue but not all of them through some unique accounting practices. Everyone knows about this but still willingly participate.

The other very interesting note is that the true money makers are films that are fairly consistent in plot (action) and audience (young) and character (young hero/super hero) but all the studios continue to make the adult movies and art house independents to please the inner world of Hollywood.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mezzanine on May 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you want to understand how Hollywood became what it is today then this book ticks all the boxes: it tracks Hollywood from its beginnings in the early-20th century and the early part of the book focusses on the development of the big six media corporations in the world and who runs them and why TV and DVD are now far more important to the bottom line than straight theatrical release.

Some of the real examples of Hollywood's incredible loss-making ability are startling: one studio's 'greatest success' actually lost over US$60m, and you learn that the drivers of money and power are not the strong but actually it all boils down to children: what they want and don't want fuels the whole industry.

Fascinating stuff and very easy to read...five stars, no questions asked.
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Format: Paperback
Perhaps because he was a political science professor, Edward Jay Epstein writes "The Big Picture: The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood" with a precision not usually found in investigative journalism. This look at how the "sexopoly" of six big media companies makes its money in the "immense, synergistic, vertically integrated industry" that Hollywood has become is as thorough a survey of modern movie economics as anyone can produce without access to the studios' well-guarded creative accounting practices. For a book that is so packed with information, I found "The Big Picture" thoroughly engaging. Money is always fascinating. But money and movies and moguls and history and politics prove even more so.

Epstein tells the story of how Hollywood economics has evolved in 29 chapters presented in 6 sections. In the Introduction, he explains the economics of Old Hollywood under the studio system, which produced 500 movies per year, that were seen by two-thirds of the ambulatory population of the United States every week, from which the studios profited directly. Only Disney, which made its money on merchandising, didn't follow the studio model. Now movie studios are owned by publicly traded conglomerates that make only a small percentage of their revenue from movies, which, even when they are big hits, tend to lose money at the box office. Profit comes from licensing and merchandising. Movies are now a source of prestige for the studios, not a source of money.
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By Val on September 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had to purchase this for a Producing class at the University of California: Los Angeles. It was actually very witty and entertaining. I got engrossed in it and quite uncharacteristically - my readings were always done on time!
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By Dr Garry on March 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love movies, and am keenly interested in how the whole system operates. This is not only a great history of the studio system and its successors, but a real eye opener as to how the finances of cinema determine what we see and when, and how the financial system has evolved through time. Recommended for any student of film history.
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