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The Hollywood Economist: The Hidden Financial Reality Behind the Movies

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  441 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
In a Freakonomics meets Hollywood saga, veteran investigative reporter Edward Jay Epstein goes undercover to explore Hollywood’s “invisible money machine,” probing the dazzlingly complicated finances behind the hits and the flops, while he answers the surprisingly puzzling question: How do the studios make their money?

Along the way we also learn much about star system and
Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 23rd 2010 by Melville House (first published January 1st 2010)
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Mar 13, 2011 brian rated it liked it
fascinating freakanomics take on the hollywood money machine, but lacking the proper heft... possibly due to the fact that much of the book is basically a reprinting and/or reworking of the author's previous book and published articles. despite that, it's a must read for hollywood folks.

although i hope to make enough money to snort many a rail of coke off many a stripper's tit and asscrack... the money + art equation is perennially icky. but y'gotta know about it. and y'also gotta know that des
Feb 11, 2011 William rated it it was ok
Shelves: ipad
Basically a collection of Edward Jay Epstein's columns of the same name for Slate and other publications, and it shows. I still thought it was a good read until, well, maybe when I saw a handful of Amazon reviewers lament it was largely a rehash of a 2003 book on the same subject (called "The Big Picture"). Okay. But I'm still giving it a slight "recommend" for anyone interested in the film industry today for a late chapter, "Are Indie Movies Dead?" The answer, it turns out is, kind of. I mean, ...more
Jun 08, 2014 Pete rated it really liked it
The Hollywood Economist 2.0 (2010) by Edward Epstein looks at how the finances of Hollywood work. It’s a fascinating account of how the contents of Hollywood films are driven by financial considerations.
The book looks at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s remarkable contracts, star insurance, how concession sales drive the economics of what Hollywood makes and how TV, video, DVD and now streaming is driving how Hollywood runs its finances. The other thing that is covered in great detail is the incredible
Apr 09, 2014 Liam rated it it was amazing
"In 1948, 65 percent of the population went to a movie house in an average week; in 2008, under 6 percent of the population went to see a movie in an average week." (53)

"A vice president at Paramount explained to me how these invisible maneuvers, including pre-sales abroad, can reduce the risk to practically zero. As an example, he cited Paramount's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider as a 'minor masterpiece' in the arcane art of studio financing. Although the official budget for this 2001 production was $9
Christopher Pufall
May 26, 2015 Christopher Pufall rated it really liked it
Although some of the material could use a small bit of updating -- just to be current with most recent and constant changes in the industry -- I found this book (vers 2.0) to be highly relevant and insightful. It covers a wide swath of the head-spinning business of making and distributing movies in the global marketplace, illustrating assorted ways that the studios have wrung out other sources of income to creatively aid in the financing of movie productions.

I have read this book twice and still
Jul 22, 2013 Damon rated it really liked it
Fun, bite-sized book on the movie business. I love Edward's clear, pop cultural take on how the debt-based business runs, though some repetitive themes and too-brief chapters prevent it from being the definitive, deep tome it could have been.
Sashko Valyus
Jan 15, 2013 Sashko Valyus rated it it was amazing
Прекрасна книга. Невилика за об'ємом, вона дуже просто і наглядно показує стан справ в сучасному Голівуді. Як і чому знімаються фільми, звідки беруться і куди ідуть мільйони доларів, і чому блокбастери не висуваються на оскар.

Aug 22, 2015 I_ty_toje rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Для обывателя интересно. Но для меня уже совсем ничего нового. Написано легко, читается быстро и с удовольствием))
Feb 21, 2014 Natalie rated it really liked it
An in-depth examination of Hollywood financials. Slightly out-of-date, but a quick and educational read.
Oct 10, 2010 Chad rated it really liked it
Mandatory for basic cultural literacy.

"When studios found that they could no longer count on habitual moviegoers to fill theaters, they went in to the very risky business of creating tailor-made audiences for each and every movie they released. Like in an election campaign, the studios had to get people to turn out at the multiplexes on a specific date-- the opening weekend. The principal means of generating this audience is to buy ads on national television. For this strategy to work efficientl
Jul 24, 2013 Matt rated it liked it
A few years ago I read an article in the Wall Street Journal explaining that many American blockbusters were set in Manhattan because the location was a familiar one to foreign audiences, who were becoming increasingly important in studios' revenues. I thought it was a fascinating piece on a rather under-reported aspect of the entertainment industry: the dynamics of the business itself. Edward Jay Epstein's The Hollywood Economist attempts to fill this knowledge void and describes the current st ...more
Apr 06, 2010 Dave rated it liked it
Recommends it for: really interested into Hollywood behind-the-scenes dealings
I don't like a lot of big Hollywood blockbuster movies, but I always enjoy reading the behind-the-scenes books about them. Love the Peter Biskind books and anything that talks about the real deals of such a sleazy business. This book focuses on the economic side and how it influences the big films that we heard about everywhere if we aren't seeing them ourselves.

The main revelation for me was that the box office numbers for these films doesn't really equate to much beyond being about to boast th
Jenny Zhou
Apr 23, 2012 Jenny Zhou rated it really liked it
There aren't many books about how Hollywood or the filmmaking industry works that aren't told through the lens of an actor/ actress writing his/her autobiography. Therefore, I appreciate Epstein's take and straightforward approach. This book is cut up into many short factual accounts - some just two pages long, others as a whole chapter of a book. It covers a wide range of interesting-to-know topics that any curious minded person would enjoy reading.

For example, here are some of the topics:
1. H
Jan 30, 2014 xq rated it liked it
pretty interesting for anyone who is interested in Hollywood and production-type things. i was intrigued b/c i wanted to understand the costs of making a film vs the returns at the box office (oh god i am a nerd) since i always read about these numbers in the media.

also learned interesting stuff about insurance for celebs, tax breaks and other interesting-to-producers-type things.

what i liked was that while this could've been really dry and boring, it was just enough info that i could comprehe
Greg Talbot
Jul 21, 2013 Greg Talbot rated it liked it
"Hollywood" has grown and prospered despite the divergent forms of entertainment available to people today. Netflix, home studios, the new wave of serious drams ("Sopranos", "Breaking Bad"), Hulu have all taken a piece of the pie, but invariably the studios continue to rake in tons of money. High margins on food and saltiness of food to keep moviegoers eating and paying. Niche marketing through franchisees and extensive marketing ensures an audience and large payoff. Of course, when you play wit ...more
May 25, 2010 Ted rated it really liked it
When I was in my salad days as a dew-eyed late teen, I wanted to be a film director, but never really had a chance to pursue that dream. If I could go back in time, I would put on my "must read" list The Hollywood Economist by Edward Epstein. The book really breaks down how movies get made and marketed in Hollywood nowadays. But Epstein also delves into the history of the movie business to show how it's evolved to the point where Hollywood is almost a "digital delivery" entertainment enterprise. ...more
Mar 06, 2013 Muneeb rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 03, 2015 Volyana rated it really liked it
... Во времена существования прежней системы (1928-1950) каждая студия снимала кино определенного жанра: MGM - музыкальные и романтические комедии, Paramount - исторические полотна, 20th Century Fоx - социально значимые полотна, Universal - фильмы ужасов, Disney - мультфильмы, Warner Brothers - ганстерские фильмы...
Dasha Vakhina
Mar 12, 2013 Dasha Vakhina rated it liked it
The uniqueness of the book (for me, at least) was in the industry picked up for the "investigation". I wondered before how the Hollywood is actually making its money but never got any article about its real "kitchen". In this way the book is a very nice introduction to the movie-industry: you can get the understanding of the main principles of the financing and production of your favourite films. Personally I was surprised with some facts, even didn't believe in some author's arguments. Anyway I ...more
Feb 07, 2014 Joelwakefield rated it liked it
An interesting read about the economics of Hollywood and the movies. Unfortunately, there were quite a few ways that would have made it much more informative, and I ended up with a lot of questions at the end that seemed to be pretty obvious ones that didn’t end up getting answered.

The book comes from a series of articles the author had written for the Wall Street Journal, so it has the feel of a lot of shorter pieces, all put together to make a longer, but not really well flowing book.

Artem Fedorov
Cognitive and interesting book. You can discover a lot of information about Hollywood “backyard”, economy, bills, profit etc. from this book. You will know that “in Hollywood is no net profit”. Maybe some information is outdated, but anyway reading this book can give you an understanding of movie distribution, actors’ contracts and why Tom Cruise is very good in business.
Nov 25, 2015 Sienna rated it liked it
The Hollywood economist is quite an interesting read as it uses a number of examples to describe how deals are made in Hollywoods and how the various players are being paid (or not paid).

It also talks about the changing environment for the movie industry from the 60s to today. The additional information of mainstream movie industry distributors and box office production along with indie film production was much appreciated.
Shereen De Leon
Mar 04, 2014 Shereen De Leon rated it really liked it
Brilliantly researched and well-written enough to be entertaining. This book made me loathe Hollywood. If nothing else, it at least leaves its reader as an informed moviegoer and consumer.
Jan 09, 2011 Jen rated it liked it
I picked up this book curious about the financial side of the movie business. It's a quick read - especially since the author give good, quick examples of the different financial aspects of movie production, marketing and distribution. It was very interesting to learn just now much it can cost of make a movie, how little profit a movie actually makes with just a theatre release and who really makes money off a movie. It was also intriguing to get a look inside an iron clad contract that made a c ...more
Petr Kalis
Oct 21, 2013 Petr Kalis rated it really liked it
Interesting book with short episodes how the Hollywood empire is working. Author shares with readers complicated background of box office magic, recent development of digital frontier.
I guess that book is completed out of newspaper or blog articles, so parts are not connected much and sometimes you are reading some bit of information over and over (I am eyeing you, this piece of info how hollywoods moguls now need to create a separate audience for each and every movie..)
Book is light reading wit
May 07, 2010 Chris rated it it was ok
This is a repetitive, not terribly well-written book but if you are curious about movies and why they have such similar elements, you will learn something and be a lot more skeptical about reports on box office grosses meaning something (just like you should ignore daily business reports on the Dow Jones Industrial Average saying something meaningful about the economy). Assuming it's accurate, it uncovers a pretty sad reality about the business (crap is inevitable because there is no incentive f ...more
Heather Colacurcio
Mar 26, 2010 Heather Colacurcio rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Good introductory exploration of how movies are funded, what percentage they take home from the box office and how much extra revenue a film needs to generate through various outlets in order to "break even" and make a profit. Also takes a look at star power, contracts and Independent cinema. People with prior film history knowledge will probably benefit the best from this book as Epstein tends to quickly summarize the Studio System era and track its evolution into the current state of Hollywood ...more
Oct 17, 2010 Michael rated it really liked it
If you still think most Hollywood movies make a healthy profit, this is the book to read.

That movies even get shown in cinemas .... after surviving the entire process from someone's idea to being written to being deemed worthy of a studios efforts of distribution to getting insurance to getting financing and then being made well enough for moviegoers to see after all the people put it together (e.g. producers, director, actors, editors, and thousands of other cast/crew) a pure miracle.

Steve Gross
Jun 26, 2016 Steve Gross rated it liked it
Good information but somewhat repetitive
Eduardo Miranda
Very interesting. There's a prevalent tone of "I've found something fishy here" that's mostly unjustified. Maybe it's the investigative journalist's bias. For instance, the fact that different investors face different levels of risk and profitability is treated as inherently suspicious, but it's the way lots of business is done and is not necessarily immoral. That being said, it provides a good deal of insight into the business of Hollywood and the strategic choices different parties face.
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Edward Jay Epstein (born 1935) is an American investigative journalist and a former political science professor at Harvard, UCLA, and MIT. While a graduate student at Cornell University in 1966, he published the book Inquest, an influential critique of the Warren Commission probe into the John F. Kennedy assassination. Epstein wrote two other books about the Kennedy assassination, eventually colle ...more
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“Since the publicity campaigns for these blockbusters have proven effective in the popcorn economy, studios recycle their elements into endless sequels, such as those for Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, and Mission Impossible, which then become the studios’ franchises on which they earn almost all their profits.” 0 likes
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