Blockbusters Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-10-15
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

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Why the future of popular culture will revolve around ever bigger bets on entertainment products, by one of Harvard Business School's most popular professors

What's behind the phenomenal success of entertainment businesses such as Warner Bros., Marvel Entertainment, and the NFL—along with such stars as Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, and LeBron James? Which strategies give leaders in film, television, music, publishing, and sports an edge over their rivals?

Anita Elberse, Harvard Business School's expert on the entertainment industry, has done pioneering research on the worlds of media and sports for more than a decade. Now, in this groundbreaking book, she explains a powerful truth about the fiercely competitive world of entertainment: building a business around blockbuster products—the movies, television shows, songs, and books that are hugely expensive to produce and market—is the surest path to long-term success. Along the way, she reveals why entertainment executives often spend outrageous amounts of money in search of the next blockbuster, why superstars are paid unimaginable sums, and how digital technologies are transforming the entertainment landscape.

Full of inside stories emerging from Elberse's unprecedented access to some of the world's most successful entertainment brands, Blockbusters is destined to become required reading for anyone seeking to understand how the entertainment industry really works—and how to navigate today's high-stakes business world at large.

Author Biography

Anita Elberse is one of the youngest female professors ever to be awarded tenure at Harvard Business School. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Variety, and Fortune. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents


Prologue: Show Business—a Business of Blockbusters     1

One: Betting on Blockbusters     15
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Grand Central Publishing, Marvel Entertainment

Two: Launching and Managing Blockbusters     56
Lady Gaga, Octone Records

Three: Investing in Superstars     83
Real Madrid, Boca Juniors

Four: How Superstars Use Their Powers     118
MGM and Tom Cruise, Maria Sharapova, LeBron James

Five: Will Digital Technology End the Dominance of Blockbusters?     150
YouTube, Hulu, the Metropolitan Opera

Six: Will Digital Technology Threaten Powerful Producers?     187
Radiohead, Major League Baseball, the National Football League

Seven: The Future of Blockbuster Strategies     220
Jay-Z, Lady Gaga

Epilogue: No Business Like Show Business?     251
Marquee New York City

Notes     267
Acknowledgments     289
Index     295

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