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