In 2005’s The Big Picture, Epstein did a terrific job of shedding light on some of the film industry’s most puzzling business practices, such as the head-scratching division of profits between stars and studios. But his new book, while just as fact-packed, does readers a disservice by ? using one of Hollywood’s own long-treasured tactics: repackaging.
Made up mainly of reworked entries from Epstein’s Slate columns, The Hollywood Economist is essentially a spruced-up retread of The Big Picture. The book’s watercooler points (theaters make money on concessions, not movies; tax credits and presales can make a film profitable before it ever hits theaters) won’t come as a shock to amateur box office gurus. Still, there’s fun to be had in knowing specifics, and Epstein? offers plenty, including a breakdown of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator 3 contract.
And then there’s Avatar. Or, more to the point, there isn’t — Avatar is totally absent from the book, which went to print before the movie broke records. That’s not Epstein’s fault. But without so much as a word about how 3-D technology is reshaping the business, The Hollywood Economist ?is a portrait of an industry that’s already evolved beyond it. C+