Synopses & Reviews
During the heyday of the studio system spanning the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, virtually all the American motion picture industry's money, power, and prestige came from a single activity: selling tickets at the box office. Today, the movie business is just a small, highly visible outpost in a media universe controlled by six corporations Sony, Time Warner, NBC Universal, Viacom, Disney, and NewsCorporation. These conglomerates view films as part of an immense, synergistic, vertically integrated money-making industry.
In The Big Picture, acclaimed writer Edward Jay Epstein gives an unprecedented, sweeping, and thoroughly entertaining account of the real magic behind moviemaking: how the studios make their money. Epstein shows how, in Hollywood, the only art that matters is the art of the deal: major films turn huge profits, not from the movies themselves but through myriad other enterprises, such as video-game spin-offs, fast-food tie-ins, soundtracks, and even theme-park rides.
The studios may compete with one another for stars, publicity, box-office
receipts, and Oscars; their corporate parents, however, make fortunes
from cooperation (and collusion) with one another in less glamorous markets, such as cable, home video, and pay-TV.
But money is only part of the Hollywood story; the social and political milieus power, prestige, and status tell the rest. Alongside remarkable financial revelations, The Big Picture is filled with eye-opening true Hollywood insider stories. We learn how the promise of free cowboy boots for a producer delayed a major movie's shooting schedule; why stars never perform their own stunts, despite what the supermarket tabloids claim; how movies intentionally shape political sensibilities, both in America and abroad; and why fifteen-year-olds dictate the kind of low-grade fare that has flooded screens across the country.
Epstein also offers incisive profiles of the pioneers, including Louis B. Mayer, who helped build Hollywood, and introduces us to the visionaries Walt Disney, Akio Morita, Rupert Murdoch, Steve Ross, Sumner Redstone, David Sarnoff power brokers who, by dint of innovation and deception, created and control the media that mold our lives. If you are interested in Hollywood today and the complex and fascinating way it has evolved in order to survive, you haven't seen the big picture until you've read The Big Picture.
"To appear in 2003's Terminator 3, Arnold Schwarzenegger received a fixed fee of $29.25 million, a package of perks totaling $1.5 million and a guaranteed 20% of gross receipts from all sources of revenue worldwide. With that, writes Epstein (Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth), no matter the film's box office results, 'the star was assured of making more money than the studio itself.' Such is the 'new logic' Epstein explores in this engrossing book. Gone are the days of studio chiefs dominating their stars with punitive contracts and controlling product from script to big screen. Writers now sell their work to the highest bidder, stars have become one-person corporations who 'rent' their services to individual productions, and the studios have morphed into what Epstein labels 'clearing houses.' These multinational corporations exist, in Epstein's description, to collect revenue from an ever-growing variety of sources home video, overseas markets and product licensing, to name a few and then disburse it to a fortunate minority at the top of Hollywood's food chain. Epstein explains the structure, personalities and behind-the-scenes interconnection of the 'sexopoly' (the six huge media companies that control motion picture entertainment). In vivid detail, he describes the current process of how a film is made, from the initial pitch to last-minute digital editing. There's a refreshing absence of moral grandstanding in Epstein's work. With no apparent ax to grind, he simply and comprehensively presents the industry as it is: the nuts and bolts, the perks and pitfalls and the staggering fortunes that some in the business walk away with. This is the new indispensable text for anyone interested in how Hollywood works. Photos. Agent, Janklow & Nesbit. (On sale Feb. 15)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A solid analysis....A compelling take that depressingly suggests movies fit more and more into a bigger picture: the age of unreality." Kirkus Reviews
"Epstein presents a fascinating look at the unbelievable efforts that must be coordinated to produce a film..." Booklist
"Epstein [is] a bulldog researcher, he's brought a great deal of interesting material together and he has interesting things to say about it. His account of the grueling, amazingly expensive and time-consuming process by which movies are now made is an eye-opener..." Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"It is hardly news that...these days are often more about branding and marketing than telling compelling human stories. What Epstein does is to put a face on those corporations and offer a detailed primer on how the movie business works today and how that in turn affects the movies we see." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Some of The Big Picture is eye-glazing stuff. But readers who want to know why movies are often mindless, derivative and unimaginative and why moviegoing has lost much of its pleasure will find the answers in it." San Jose Mercury News
From the author of Inquest comes an unprecedented investigation into how Hollywood makes money today.
About the Author
Edward Jay Epstein is author of a number of books, including Inquest: The Warren Commission, News from Nowhere: Television and the News, Establishment of Truth, Legend: Lee Harvey Oswald, and Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer. He lives in New York City.