Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment

Anita Elberse, Author
Anita Elberse. Holt, $30 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9433-6
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According to Elberse, one of Harvard Business School's youngest tenured female professors, the entertainment business—sports, film, and music—favors the surefire blockbuster, with a small portion of acts generating a majority of the revenue. In 2010, Warner Brothers released 22 movies, yet just four of them generated 70% of the company's profits. While distribution channels (cable TV, online streaming, DVDs) proliferate, increasing choices for consumers, they also fragment earnings for producers. Thus, content producers need blockbuster products that can command the attention of consumers in an increasingly competitive landscape. Music companies today lack the budgets for large album promotions—even for star performers such as Jay-Z and Lady Gaga—forcing artists to form partnerships with corporations like Microsoft and Target. Elberse's observations on entertainment industry economics aren't notably insightful or original, nor are they necessarily timeless. Still, 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. 21 b&w charts and graphs. (Oct.)
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