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Risky Business in Hollywood

The NYT has this interesting feature today on some of the possible fallout from the drop-kick that Viacom delivered the other day to Tom Cruise: “A Big Star May Not a Profitable Movie Make.” Why hire a star, if the evidence of financial benefit is so equivocal?

“Stars help to launch a film. They are meant as signals to create a big opening,” he said. “But they can’t make a film have legs.”

Mr. Ravid, the Rutgers professor, suggests that stars serve as insurance for executives who fear they could be fired for green-lighting a flop. “If they hire Julia Roberts and the film flops, they can say ‘Well, who knew?’ ” said Mr. Ravid.

In a related spirit, Stephen Colbert (as usual) brings the truth. As Linda Ellerbee used to say, and so it goes.

1 thought on “Risky Business in Hollywood”

  1. I think what we can hope for a less star-driven system. As Caves says in Creative Industries, it’s virtually impossible to apportion a film’s success to different ingredients; stars, being the most visible element often, are going to get the lion’s share of attribution of value. This attribution might be entirely artificial.

    I’d like to see a more egalitarian world of actors where more people get a shot to act in major films. Robert FRank (in Winner take all society) notes that, before recorded music, there were many more performers who could get live audiences. Maybe a decomposition of the star system can lead to more shots at big audiences for lesser known actors. (of course, given the concentration of the industry, it probably just means more money for moguls!)

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