The Business of Making Movies

All business requires guessing, but future predilections of moviegoers are especially opaque. If a large company wants to introduce a new car, it can at least base its predictions, in part, on factors like where oil prices are headed. Movie executives, on the other hand, come up with a host of new theories each summer about what audiences want — 3-D tent poles, 2-D tent poles, vampires, comics, board games and so on — then, sometimes over the course of a weekend, ricochet toward a new theory. Will the tepid economics of “Men in Black 3” spell trouble for “The Amazing Spider-Man,” this holiday weekend’s big release? Who knows.

How does a movie like “Men in Black 3” earn $550 million worldwide, but is now just considered profitable? That’s the question Adam Davidson tackles in his economics column for the Times magazine this week. Studios often rely on a few big hits to make up for all the flops that happen over the course of a year. If I were to guess what the biggest hit of the summer will be, I’d bet on “The Dark Knight Rises,” mostly because it’s the only movie that’s likely to draw me to the theater this summer, because I’ve stopped going to the movies because it’s just so darn expensive.



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