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Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summerby Tom Shone
"Regardless of its timing and the validity of its argument, Blockbuster is spellbinding. For film lovers, this kind of book is its own allure....Writing in a personable style similar to Biskind's, Shone has crafted a book that is so addictive it required forcible restraint to make me put it down....When Blockbuster had ended, I was only disappointed that it wasn't longer, covering even more movies." Bolton, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
It's a typical summer Friday night and the smell of popcorn is in the air. Throngs of fans jam into air-conditioned multiplexes to escape for two hours in the dark, blissfully lost in Hollywood's latest glittery confection complete with megawatt celebrities, awesome special effects, and enormous marketing budgets. The world is in love with the blockbuster movie, and these cinematic behemoths have risen to dominate the film industry, breaking box office records every weekend. With the passion and wit of a true movie buff and the insight of an internationally renowned critic, Tom Shone is the first to make sense of this phenomenon by taking readers through the decades that have shaped the modern blockbuster and forever transformed the face of Hollywood.
The moment the shark fin broke the water in 1975, a new monster was born. Fast, visceral, and devouring all in its path, the blockbuster had arrived. In just a few weeks Jaws earned more than $100 million in ticket sales, an unprecedented feat that heralded a new era in film. Soon, blockbuster auteurs such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and James Cameron would revive the flagging fortunes of the studios and lure audiences back into theaters with the promise of thrills, plenty of action, and an escape from art house pretension.
But somewhere along the line, the beast they awakened took on a life of its own, and by the 1990s production budgets had escalated as quickly as profits. Hollywood entered a topsy-turvy world ruled by marketing and merchandising mavens, in which flops like Godzilla made money and hits had to break records just to break even. The blockbuster changed from a major event that took place a few times a year into something that audiences have come to expect weekly, piling into the backs of one another in an annual demolition derby that has left even Hollywood aghast.
Tom Shone has interviewed all the key participants — from cinematic visionaries like Spielberg and Lucas and the executives who greenlight these spectacles down to the effects wizards who detonated the Death Star and blew up the White House — in order to reveal the ways in which blockbusters have transformed how Hollywood makes movies and how we watch them. As entertaining as the films it chronicles, Blockbuster is a must-read for any fan who delights in the magic of the movies.
"Shone's first book is an entertaining chronological survey of top-grossing films during the past 30 summers, beginning with Universal's Jaws (1975). The Steven Spielberg film became a phenomenon, breaking the $100-million mark. When movie attendance was at an all-time low in the early 1970s, Shone explains, studios had been keeping costs down, but they changed that tactic and began spending more and developing new marketing and merchandising methods. It worked. By that decade's end, box office returns had tripled, due to 22 films, each earning more than $50 million. Ticket sales soared as Paramount went from The Godfather to Grease, Fox launched Star Wars, and Columbia scored with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. To trace the evolution of summer blockbuster films through three decades, Shone, former London Sunday Times film critic, interviewed more than 40 talents, including Spielberg, John Lasseter, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Sigourney Weaver and Richard Zanuck. He devotes full chapters to Titanic ('the world's first billion-dollar blockbuster') and other 'event movies.' Although reams have been published about such films as Alien and Blade Runner, Shone writes with verve, producing a probing, intelligent analysis. Photos. FYI: Dade Hayes and Jonathan Bing's forthcoming Open Wide: Inside the Blockbuster Movie Factory (Forecasts, Aug. 23) covers similar ground." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[C]ompelling, witty, authoritative, and very, very smart....Blockbuster is weirdly humane: it prizes entertainment over boredom, and audiences over critics, and yet it's a work of great critical intelligence." Nick Hornby, The Believer
"Shone evinces an intuitive knowledge of what makes audiences respond....One of those rare film books that walks the fine line between populist tub-thumping and sky-is-falling, Sontag-esque screed." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Although the reader may bemoan how one of America's greatest art forms has been reduced to entertainment aimed at 13-year-olds, Shone's biting analyses are on target." Booklist
"A very funny, beautifully written book. I loved it and didn't want it to end. It's like the tip of a rather cheerful iceberg, sailing apparently effortlessly on top of a mass of great interviews, anecdotes, and a film critic's knowledge and love of the medium. The best thing about it is the voice — idiosyncratic, witty, light, intelligent, and very good fun." Helen Fielding
International film critic Tom Shone takes readers through the decades that have shaped the modern blockbuster — from the first big hits of the seventies, to the one-upmanship of the eighties, to the technological surge that computer-generated special effects heralded in the nineties, up to the excesses and bloated budgets of the modern day.
About the Author
Tom Shone was born in Horsham, England, in 1967. From 1994 to 1999 he was the film critic of the London Sunday Times and has since written for a number of publications, including The New Yorker, the New York Times, the London Daily Telegraph, and Vogue. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. This is his first book.
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