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Open Wide

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Open Wide

How Hollywood Box Office Became a National Obsession


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

Going to the movies is fun, but making them is an expensive, nerve-wracking grind with millions of dollars at stake.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


This exciting, well-written and even suspenseful book covers the making of three movies released July 4, 2003. Authors Dade Hayes and Jonathan Bing offer insights, information and great stories as they track Terminator 3, Legally Blonde 2 and the animated Sinbad. The authors make powerful comparisons between the ways the three films were conceived, shot and marketed. Each studio had huge investments at stake as these films wound their way through pre-production and production and into the arcane world of distribution and exhibition. The hardball techniques used to promote multi-million dollar movies hold lessons for anyone in marketing and branding. Therefore, getAbstract recommends this behind-the-scenes account which includes some terrific yarns. It unveils Hollywood’s tangled, convoluted efforts to get fans worldwide to part with a few dollars for a relaxing night at the movies, which, by the way, are not the least bit relaxing for the people who create them.


Lights, Camera, Marketing

The movies Terminator 3, Legally Blonde 2 and Sinbad all opened the weekend of July 4, 2003. The people who made them anxiously waited for that weekend’s box office counts, the numbers that would determine the films’ survival. Even amateur moviegoers know why: a big premier weekend - the ability to "open wide" - has become the barometer of a film’s fate.

The real story of how Hollywood box office became enmeshed with American life, and how Americans became obsessed with box office, is less a story of glamour and art than a story of statisticians, distribution executives and the exhibitors who lease movies to theaters.

Today, studios seek movie franchises that spin off various revenue sources, such as CDs, videos, electronic games and merchandise. Movies spring from marketing concepts, not necessarily great stories. The consumer product divisions of film studios now generate as much revenues as some films themselves. TV spin-offs and home video or sequel rights are lucrative revenue sources that can dominate any discussion about a movie’s artistic merits. This is vastly different from the days when original movies were made on a combination...

About the Authors

Dade Hayes is a managing editor of special reports at Variety. His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, TV Guide and Premier. Jonathan Bing is deputy managing editor at Variety. His articles have been published in The Nation, Entertainment Weekly and The Village Voice.

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