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The Big Book

In Hollywood, big bets lead to big payoffs

Kai Ryssdal Oct 17, 2013
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Sometimes the entertainment world seem to follow a pretty tired formula: Hollwood loves its superheroes and pop songs to all sound alike. 

Anita Elberse, author of “Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment,” says studios pick the safe option because the industry is inherently risky.

Producers know they have to swing for the fences with big budgets if they want sustained success. “What Hollywood has learned,” Elberse says, “is that the idea that smaller bets are safer is a myth.”

Elberse says that it’s safer to make a single $200 million movie instead of ten $20 million movies because it aligns with how consumers make choices.

“The average movie-goer in this country sees six films in a year. That’s one every two months,” she says. “What the studios are trying to do is make sure it’s their movie.”

And contrary to how it was a few years ago, the movie industry is now embracing the same digital platforms that once used to scare them. 

“If anything, the impact of digital technology is creating bigger brands and bigger superstars,” she says. “What Hollywood is discovering, and the record labels are discovering, is that the future is relatively bright and that the models that they’ve lived by for a while are still working nowadays.”

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