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Uncertainty in the Movie Industry: Does Star Power Reduce the Terror of the Box Office?

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  • Arthur De Vany
  • W. Walls

Abstract

Everyone knows that the movie business is risky. But how risky is it? Do strategies exist that reduce risk? We investigate these questions using a sample of over 2000 motion pictures. We discover that box-office revenues are asymptotically Pareto-distributed and have infinite variance. The mean is dominated by rare blockbuster movies that are located in the far right tail. There is no typical movie because box-office revenue outcomes do not converge to an average: revenues diverge over all scales. The studio model of risk management lacks a foundation in theory or evidence, and revenue forecasts have zero precision. Movies are complex products and the cascade of information among film-goers during the course of a film's run can evolve along so many paths that it is impossible to attribute the success of a movie to individual causal factors. The audience makes a movie a hit and no amount of “star power” or marketing can alter that. The real star is the movie. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Cultural Economics.

Volume (Year): 23 (1999)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
Pages: 285-318

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jculte:v:23:y:1999:i:4:p:285-318

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Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100284

Related research

Keywords: star power; Pareto law; motion picture industry;

References

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  1. Blumenthal, Marsha A, 1988. "Auctions with Constrained Information: Blind Bidding for Motion Pictures," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(2), pages 191-98, May.
  2. Eugene F. Fama, 1963. "Mandelbrot and the Stable Paretian Hypothesis," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36, pages 420.
  3. Chung, Kee H & Cox, Raymond A K, 1994. "A Stochastic Model of Superstardom: An Application of the Yule Distribution," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(4), pages 771-75, November.
  4. De Vany, Arthur & Walls, W David, 1996. "Bose-Einstein Dynamics and Adaptive Contracting in the Motion Picture Industry," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(439), pages 1493-1514, November.
  5. W. David Walls, 1997. "Increasing returns to information: evidence from the Hong Kong movie market," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(5), pages 287-290.
  6. W. David Walls, 1998. "Product survival at the cinema: evidence from Hong Kong," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(4), pages 215-219.
  7. De Vany, Arthur S & Walls, W David, 1997. "The Market for Motion Pictures: Rank, Revenue, and Survival," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(4), pages 783-97, October.
  8. Steven Albert, 1998. "Movie Stars and the Distribution of Financially Successful Films in the Motion Picture Industry," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 249-270, December.
  9. Darlene Chisholm, 1996. "Continuous Degrees of Residual Claimancy: Some Contractual Evidence," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(11), pages 739-741.
  10. De Vany, A., 1997. "Complexity in the Movies," Papers 97-98-06, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  11. Benoit Mandelbrot, 1963. "The Variation of Certain Speculative Prices," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36, pages 394.
  12. Kenney, Roy W & Klein, Benjamin, 1983. "The Economics of Block Booking," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(3), pages 497-540, October.
  13. Ijiri, Yuji & Simon, Herbert A, 1971. "Effects of Mergers and Acquisitions on Business Firm Concentration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 79(2), pages 314-22, March-Apr.
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