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The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  755 ratings  ·  111 reviews
The stunning metamorphosis of twenty-first-century Hollywood and what lies ahead for the art and commerce of film.

In the past decade, Hollywood has endured a cataclysm on a par with the end of silent film and the demise of the studio system. Stars and directors have seen their power dwindle, while writers and producers lift their best techniques from TV, comic books,
Kindle Edition, 309 pages
Published March 6th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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 ·  755 ratings  ·  111 reviews

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Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ben Fritz answers the question of people like me who bemoan the decline in films of interest: What happened? As a Wall Street Journal reporter he is well qualified to answer this question since the answer lies in the economics of the movie industry.

While Fritz covers all the major studios (and smaller ones that have been absorbed or otherwise disappeared) his best primary source material comes from Sony. The North Korean hack enabled him to show the personal dynamics of the executives navigatin
Zachary Houle
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don’t go to the movies anymore. That might surprise you if you know me, as I minored in Film Studies while pursuing a Journalism degree some 20 years ago. (Though that was more of a time management move on my part — it was easy to cut film class if they were showing a popular film that you could rent at Blockbuster if you really needed to be somewhere else to do journalism work.) In fact, I think the last movie I saw at the theater was the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters, and I was one of only a f ...more
Sara Goldenberg
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Long story short, people are stupid. That's what the book says. People don't want new, creative things, they want the same old-same old; things they already know. Feh.
Joe Kucharski
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Ben Fritz of the Wall Street Journal loves movies. He is passionate about the experience of communally watching a film, the unique ability for artists to tell their stories, and the Hollywood business machine behind it all. But man, he hates franchise features. From Marvel and DC to Star Wars and Star Trek to dinosaurs and robots, he sees these spectacles as indie film destroyers and creative blockers. To some extent, he might be right. What Fritz seems to have forgotten along the way, and a point that ...more
Matt Arena
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look into the massive shifts in the movie industry from the rise of The Brand™ and the death of the mid-budget star vehicle. Plus great insights into Amy Pascal's career and specifically, the last few years of her tenure at Sony. The stuff provided by the Sony hack is incredible. There's even a look into Bob Iger's strategy as head of Disney and a chronicling of the rise of Marvel Studios. If you're interested in business/movie talk, you will LOVE THIS BOOK.

I can't reco
Samuel James
Jun 12, 2018 rated it liked it
This is an interesting journalistic foray into the economics of Hollywood’s sequel/franchise/reboot obsession. Fritz does a good job assembling a coherent narrative from the decline of Sony Pictures, filled with data, boardroom drama and perspective on the industry as a cultural institution. The book lacks really meaningful commentary, however, and Fritz disappointingly doesn’t examine America’s love of the repackaged culturally. If you know what’s going on already, you won’t be surprised by any ...more
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
My test for any book about Hollywood—particularly modern Hollywood—is whether or not the book teaches me anything new. As somebody whose main hobby is the box office and whose favorite intellectual pastimes include "thinking about movies" and "thinking about Hollywood as a global business," this can be difficult. I struggled in some of my Media Studies classes in college because, being the minorly obsessive personality that I am, I had already learned everything relevant in the syllabus before s ...more
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you ever needed an insight into the film industry at large and what its insides are really doing, this is the book you need to read. Brilliantly written by someone with a great and intimate knowledge of the patterns and trends that the film industry is exhibiting, Fritz's book not only celebrates film and its growing rival, television, but paints a startling picture of its future.

The bulk of this book is centred around information made public by the Sony leak in 2014, leaking emails, scripts
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Considering how little interest I have in movies, or popular culture in general, I found this very interesting. It explains the various factors, particularly economic, that have changed who has power/influence in terms of what kind of movies get made, and thus has changed significantly the kind of movies that do get made. At the same time, TV has also been changing. I was not aware of this, because I haven't watched TV in ten years, and very little for ten years before that. I still don't think ...more
Jun 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Much of the book focuses on explaining the rise in cinematic universes and franchise films, the reasons for which one can pretty much infer with common sense (rise in international box office, advent of online streaming services, etc). But Fritz provides context to many of the studio decisions, he gives names and dates and backstory to the rise of Marvel, the trials of Sony, and the ways companies like Amazon, Netflix and Annapurna are shaking up the game for independent filmmakers and studios a ...more
Helen Shen
Sep 29, 2018 rated it did not like it
I hate to say this, Ben Fritz about media are way too biast against the new media persective. Ironically he is also one of the journalist responsible for the fake news about Pewdiepie and take it out off context just to slander all the new media all together.

I highly recommend to avoid his journalist report at all cost.
Jingwei Shi
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tech
This book provides a very good overview of the movie industry from its past to its present. The author clearly points out the disruption and root causes while diving in depth about each significant player in the industry (ie. Netflix, Amazon, Sony, Disney etc).
Thomas Myers
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whoa. This book offers a clear and wide-ranging analysis of Modern Hollywood. If you want to know how the modern movie-making process works, and why big tentpole films reign supreme, Ben Fritz has the answer. He looks through the lenses of a major studio (Sony Pictures), and tracks the economic analysis with the skills of a Wall Street journalist. A must-read for movie fans.
JQ Salazar
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must for any lover of film who's a bit bummed by the takeover of franchises. Fascinating analysis of every facet of the business.
Kim Pallister
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great inside look at both the factors upending the movie biz as well as the corp culture at Sony pictures
Buzz Andersen
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-read
Panoramic overview of the many ways the movie business is changing

Cleverly uses the hacked Sony emails as a window into the struggles of an old school studio boss, Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal, to adjust to the new realities of a franchise dominated, digitally disrupted Hollywood. The rest is well researched and a fascinating look at how tech companies, studio refugees, comic book and toy companies, China, and others are adapting to the modern film landscape. Highly recommended.
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m a sucker for Hollywood insider books about companies I care about, in the spirit of James Stewart’s DisneyWar, so I devoured this zippy read about the struggles of studios to adapt to the multiple economic and cultural earthquakes roiling the entertainment industry in the 2010s. Much of it is tragic reading for a guy like me, who adores movie theaters and deplores the idea of kowtowing to the demands of the Chinese Communist Party to sell movie tickets, but the pain is worth Fritz’s inside s ...more
Lisa Franek
Aug 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book is more of a hit job on Amy Pascal than anything else. The author takes every opportunity to blame Pascal for what's wrong with the movie business and every mistake she has ever made. Given that the success or failure of any movie or studio or industry is the result of mistakes made by MANY people, this is unfair and unnecessary, and ultimately comes off as misogynistic, since the only people the author thinks are worthy of praise are all white dudes. Pass.
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I like the first half of the book better than the second. Not sure if it was me, or if the first half just flowed better. Felt more interesting, more complete stories. By the time I got to the last 1/4 of the book, I was skimming just to get done. Don't feel that Fritz said anything new that he hadn't set up in the first 1/2.

Reading about Sony and the other studios, using the leaked Sony emails, was quite fascinating. But OMG this industry is so DUDE-heavy. He did spend a lot of time
Ursula Johnson
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audible, film-tv
The New Reality is Already Here

The title of this book is somewhat interesting, since the fight is pretty much over. A number of studios are facing the reality that consumers have choices for entertainment. Art-house films the Academy loves, the public does not. Viewership has fallen dramatically.

Author Ben Fritz has done a great job of reporting on the Sony pictures back and state of several studios facing the difficult fact that public tastes in films at the box office have changed. Films
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author, using Sony-hacked emails for much of his source material (which presents in and of itself a fascinating, fly-on-the-wall account of a film studio in the mid 2010s struggling to create mid-budget “adult” movies) convincingly argues: 1. Franchise films( especially those distributed by Disney) designed around a “universe” and designed to sell Legos, Barbies, Marvel toys, whatever, are here to stay; 2. China, for financial reasons, is the new target audience for most films; 3. Everyone - ...more
E. Nicholas
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating and often times eye-opening account of how, in the past few decades, Hollywood has come to be dominated by tentpoles, franchise movies, and the birth of "cinematic universes." Aided in part by a treasure trove of insider information made public after the Sony leak, Ben Fritz has crafted a concise and sobering look at how several studios were caught unprepared in the midst of a changing landscape, one that's come to be dominated by intellectual property, peak television, and powerho ...more
Elisabeth Young
Sep 16, 2019 rated it liked it
you probably have to be into the topic to enjoy it, because it goes into a lot of industry politics, but I'm interested and into it. I wouldn't say that it's revelatory, but it is interesting and readable. At first glance, he's not as sacrosanct or obvious as many other white dudes but he still holds them in high enough regard that his messaging isn't exactly subliminal. he sure did make a lot of mentions about Pascal being at her "lady bits doctor." Though, he didn't use those exact words, that ...more
Amy Wolf
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An incisive -- and chilling -- look at Hollywood today. I worked in the industry when studios would release a diverse slate of 25-30 pictures a year: mid-budget dramas, comedies, rom-coms, thrillers, etc.
Now the author tells us that studios are focused on a few "big tentpoles" a year: and they must be reboots, franchises, sequels, and prequels all based on some kind of "cinematic universe."
The age of moguls who actually cared about film (Amy Pascal of Sony, for example) is dead.
Greg Enslen
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read for those interested in the current climate in Hollywood, one that favors massive cinematic universes and movies with explosions, while giving short shrift to anything that doesn't include killer robots. The author explores the current players in Hollywood, including the studios, the outside money and influence coming in from places like China, and new players in the television industry that, every year, seems to be making more and more excellent dramas and comedies. It's the gold ...more
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A timely look at what is happening in the Hollywood and the movie industry. Why are there so many superhero films, and what does this mean for the industry and for us as fans? As Ben Fritz explains, we’ve moved from star vehicles to franchises, and now to ‘universes’ - for example Marvel - where films interlock with each other around a much larger world which also includes other elements like theme parks and toys. Part of the focus is on Sony Pictures, who have been left behind by this shift - t ...more
Michael Ritchie
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very interesting examination of the current state Hollywood, very much a good news/bad news thing. The good news is that Hollywood is making product that, apparently, people want to see. The bad news is that the big studios have become franchise machines, only interested in making superhero movies or other series films (like Fast and Furious); the movies are so expensive that the profit margins are going down, and audiences are already showing signs of franchise fatigue. Much of the research for ...more
Casey Ryan
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this from cover to cover. A page turner, even though it is non-fiction. Maybe it is because I am such a movie business nerd. STAY AWAY FROM THIS IF YOU LOVE MOVIES. It is a bleak, depressing outlook on what has happened to the movie industry. The themes and overall messages in here were not news to me, but they connected the dots in a meaningful way that confirms my fears that the movie industry is essentially doomed unless you are an Ellison, Amazon/Apple or can make a movie a Chinese aud ...more
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: a-in-kailua
It's economics stupid! If you have half a brain you know what happened to movies. If not, and you need it explained to you, Than this book is for you. Or if you just don't have time to invest in pop culture to be able to use your brain, but then you probably don't have time to read this book, well it will explain what happened. If any of this is news to you, please do not vote or have children. In a nutshell, the landscape changed with technology. Big budget films need big revenue streams to jus ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is largely, a Bell's End Shakes Fist at Cloud.

This is basically preaching to the choir of anyone who has disliked and/or bored with all the franchising work that's been happening over the past decade or so. I'm a big fan of Peter Biskind, so this felt like a voice in the void as we await his next book (coming out in September, I believe--although I'm nonplussed about hims disregarding the Weinstein "rumors").

Most of this is not new (although the China angle was a bit enlightening), althou
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Ben Fritz is an editor for the Wall Street Journal. He previously covered the entertainment industry for the Journal, as well as the Los Angeles Times and Variety. A graduate of Swarthmore College, he lives in Los Angeles.
“Some viewed Chinese investors as the latest “dumb money” to hit Hollywood. It is no doubt true that financing movies is not the smartest way for any investor, from anywhere in the world, to earn the best returns. Others had a different theory—that some wealthy Chinese individuals and businesses were seeking to get their money out of China, where an autocratic government could still steal anyone’s wealth at any time, for any reason. Certainly Hollywood had long been a destination for legal money laundering. But those who worked most closely with the Chinese knew that the biggest reason for these investments was a form of reverse-colonialism. After more than a decade as a place for Hollywood to make money, China wanted to turn the tables. The United States had already proved the power of pop culture to help establish a nation’s global dominance. Now China wanted to do the same. The Beijing government considered art and culture to be a form of “soft power,” whereby it could extend influence around the world without the use of weapons. Over the past few years, locally produced Chinese films had become more successful at the box office there. But most were culturally specific comedies and love stories that didn’t translate anywhere else. China had yet to produce a global blockbuster. And with box-office growth in that country slowing in 2016 and early 2017, hits that resonated internationally would be critical if the Communist nation was to grow its movie business and use it to become the kind of global power it wanted to be. So Chinese companies, with the backing of the government, started investing in Hollywood, with a mission to learn how experienced hands there made blockbusters that thrived worldwide. Within a few years, they figured, China would learn how to do that without anyone’s help. “Working with a company like Universal will help us elevate our skill set in moviemaking,” the head of the Chinese entertainment company Perfect World Pictures said, while investing $250 million in a slate of upcoming films from the American studio. Getting there wouldn’t be easy. One of the highest-profile efforts to produce a worldwide hit out of China was The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon and made by Wanda’s Legendary Pictures. The $150 million film, about a war against monsters set on the Chinese historic landmark, grossed an underwhelming $171 million and a disastrous $45 million in the United States. Then, to create another obstacle, Chinese government currency controls established in early 2017 slowed, at least temporarily, the flow of money from China into Hollywood. But by then it was too late to turn back. As seemed to always be true when it came to Hollywood’s relationship with China, the Americans had no choice but to keep playing along. Nobody else was willing to pour billions of dollars into the struggling movie business in the mid-2010s, particularly for original or lower-budget productions.” 0 likes
“What made the movie business unique in the history of corporate capitalism is captured in the screenwriter William Goldman’s maxim, true for many decades: “nobody knows anything.” No other industry pumped out so many products so frequently with so little foreknowledge of whether they would be any good. The only feasible business strategy, it appeared, was to sign up the best creative talent, trust your strongest hunches about what looked likely to appeal to millions of people, and hope you ended up with Back to the Future instead of Ishtar. Over the past few years, however, something big has happened: finally, people in Hollywood do know something. What they know is that branded franchises work. People say they want new ideas and fresh concepts, but in reality they most often go to the multiplex for familiar characters and concepts that remind them of what they already know they like. Big name brands like Marvel, Harry Potter, Fast & Furious, and Despicable Me consistently gross more than $1 billion at the global box office, not only raking in huge profits, but justifying studios’ very existence and the jobs of everyone who works on their glamorous lots. This change has happened slowly over about a decade in Hollywood, making it hard to appreciate its magnitude. But now it is undeniable that the dawn of the franchise film era is the most meaningful revolution in the movie business since the studio system ended, in the 1950s.” 0 likes
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