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The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,377 ratings  ·  179 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, and
Kindle Edition, 309 pages
Published March 6th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  1,377 ratings  ·  179 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
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 poi ...more
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. ...more
Ben Wagner
Nov 25, 2020 rated it liked it
A book that begins strong and putters out halfway through. At first it feels like an genuinely insightful look into the last decade of Hollywood, but halfway through it becomes one-note.
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 recommend this e
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
Ricky Carrigan
Nov 15, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a book club selection from Ryen Russillo’s podcast, and I haven’t listened to the Ben Fritz interview episode yet but I’m excited to now do so. I really enjoyed much of this book. The insider and behind the scenes stuff in it are great. There is a lot of great stuff on Marvel, Disney, Sony, and studio execs like Amy Pascal, Michael Lynton, and Bob Iger that are insightful and compelling. There’s also a section on Will Smith’s After Earth that is incredible. But for the bulk of this boo ...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
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
Daniel Vaca
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes of the major film studios and the paradigm shift that occurred in the film industry in the 2000s and 2010s. In the acknowledgements, Ben credits one of his journalism teachers with teaching him to make even the dullest of topics fun to read and for me, I think he was successful in this book, especially when it comes to close analysis of box office performance. This had been on my reading list since 2018 and I'm glad to have finally gotte ...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.
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.
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
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-bookshelf
An enlightening read about the past decade or so of Hollywood studios and filmmaking.
Aug 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Franchises now are same as movie stars before. People choose not a movie with a known celebrity, but a story within the known cinematic universe. Interesting reading.
Dec 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Anyone who likes to watch movies should read this.
Brett Plaxton
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you’re curious about the current trends of big blockbuster movies, this is a must read!
Connor Foley
Dec 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
*DJ Khaled voice* Another one
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. ...more
Madelyn Skinner
Jan 13, 2021 rated it liked it
3.5; fascinating pre-COVID take on the state of the entertainment industry (with a lot of the author’s predictions happening more rapidly than anticipated due to the pandemic)
Daniel Archer
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
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 on Amy Pasc
Cody Allen
Mar 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The story of Hollywood is the same story as every other industry and facet of American culture: money is king.

In the 80s and 90s, films used to be driven by star power. People would go see a movie starring Julia Roberts because they knew what they were going to get, and studios could fairly accurately ballpark their expected profits. As the times have changed (and DVD sales have plummeted in preference to home streaming services), so has the way Hollywood earns its dollars. In the 2000s and 2010
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 that
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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.

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“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
“Video-on-demand rentals and digital downloads helped a bit as the years went on, but the movie business never fully recovered. Annual home-entertainment revenue, and the studio profits that follow from it, fell by nearly half between 2004 and 2016, from nearly $22 billion to $12 billion. At the same time, Americans became much less important to the American movie business. As the economies of developing nations throughout Latin America and Asia grew, theater construction surged and the rising middle class spent their newfound wealth on what was to them the novel and luxurious experience of a night out to see the latest Hollywood flick. International box office exploded, from $8.6 billion in 2001 to $27.2 billion in 2016. The biggest driver of growth in recent years has been China; its box office grew from $2 billion in 2011 to $6.6 billion in 2016 and is expected to surpass U.S. box office before the end of the decade. Domestic box office, meanwhile, grew by only 40 percent between 2001 and 2015, to $11.4 billion—reflecting a slight decline in attendance, once you factor in ticket price increases. Both trends were like a siren’s wail to studio executives, urging them to make fewer, bigger, louder movies. DVD sales declines were smallest for movies with budgets of more than $75 million, and as studios tried to cut costs in response to plummeting home-entertainment revenues, risky original scripts and adaptations of highbrow books were the first to go. Annual movie releases by major studios were 139 in 2016, down 32 percent” 0 likes
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