The Big Picture by Edward Jay Epstein
The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 3 Critic Reviews



During the heyday of the studio system spanning the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, virtually all the American motion picture industry’s money, power, and prestige came from a single activity: selling tickets at the box office. Today, the movie business is just a small, highly visible outpost in a media universe controlled by six corporations–Sony, Time Warner, NBC Universal, Viacom, Disney, and NewsCorporation. These conglomerates view films as part of an immense, synergistic, vertically integrated money-making industry.

In The Big Picture, acclaimed writer Edward Jay Epstein gives an unprecedented, sweeping, and thoroughly entertaining account of the real magic behind moviemaking: how the studios make their money. Epstein shows how, in Hollywood, the only art that matters is the art of the deal: major films turn huge profits, not from the movies themselves but through myriad other enterprises, such as video-game spin-offs, fast-food tie-ins, soundtracks, and even theme-park rides.

The studios may compete with one another for stars, publicity, box-office
receipts, and Oscars; their corporate parents, however, make fortunes
from cooperation (and collusion) with one another in less glamorous markets, such as cable, home video, and pay-TV.

But money is only part of the Hollywood story; the social and political milieus–power, prestige, and status–tell the rest. Alongside remarkable financial revelations, The Big Picture is filled with eye-opening true Hollywood insider stories. We learn how the promise of free cowboy boots for a producer delayed a major movie’s shooting schedule; why stars never perform their own stunts, despite what the supermarket tabloids claim; how movies intentionally shape political sensibilities, both in America and abroad; and why fifteen-year-olds dictate the kind of low-grade fare that has flooded screens across the country.

Epstein also offers incisive profiles of the pioneers, including Louis B. Mayer, who helped build Hollywood, and introduces us to the visionaries–Walt Disney, Akio Morita, Rupert Murdoch, Steve Ross, Sumner Redstone, David Sarnoff–power brokers who, by dint of innovation and deception, created and control the media that mold our lives. If you are interested in Hollywood today and the complex and fascinating way it has evolved in order to survive, you haven’t seen the big picture until you’ve read The Big Picture.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Edward Jay Epstein

See more books from this Author
Edward Jay Epstein, who wrote the "Hollywood Economist" column for Slate, is the author of The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood, as well as many other books. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker, and he lives in New York City. His website is
Published February 15, 2005 by Random House. 416 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Big Picture

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

These largely inhuman product packages make billions—and films like Gentleman’s Agreement are gone with the wind.

Dec 15 2004 | Read Full Review of The Big Picture: The New Logi...

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

Epstein gets us closer than most to a comprehension of the movie world's numbers games, but he doesn't quite take the final step of putting it all together in terms that residents of the real world can grasp.

Mar 20 2005 | Read Full Review of The Big Picture: The New Logi...

Entertainment Weekly

This one could not be more complete — or readable — covering everything from the basic linguistics of the business (''pitch,'' ''greenlight,'' ''creative differences,'' all the studio-speak buzzwords are in here) to elementary film-industry economics (it's all about DVD sales) to the psycho-soci...

Feb 16 2005 | Read Full Review of The Big Picture: The New Logi...

Reader Rating for The Big Picture

An aggregated and normalized score based on 17 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review