“When I went to film school at USC,” writes George Lucas, ” I didn’t know anything about movies… As I learned about the craft and the business of filmmaking, I fell in love with the whole process… [The 70s were] a period of upheaval in the film business. Individuals were just starting to break out of the classic studio model, making their own artistic choices and affecting the kinds of films that were produced… Today’s upheaval is both economic and technological… digital technology is now making production far more democratic. As a result, creative power is again being pulled away from the studios and everyone is scrambling to figure out what’s going to happen next.”
To that end, George Lucas tapped Alex Ben Block, former editor of The Hollywood Reporter and Television Week, to produce a comprehensive, massive tome (994 pages) to educate the next generation of filmmakers with a wide range of fascinating cinematic trivia and statistics — salaries of stars and directors, film budgets, box office revenue, ticket prices, director profiles, quotations, discussion of evolving technology — as well as a behind-the-scenes look at 300 blockbusters from 1910 to 2005. The book features an extensive bibliography and online sources. “This is the book I wish I’d had when I was coming up in the industry,” notes Lucas. Indeed, this book belongs on the shelf of any film student or cinephile.
A book of this size is not meant to be read from cover to cover; indeed it is a sumptuous banquet for a movie lover, but it is best savored in small bites. Here is one appetizer. The costs of films has increased dramatically over the past few decades. Why does it cost so much to make a blockbuster? Where does all the money go?
Breakdown of Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Story: $20 million
Screenplay: $10 million
Producer fees: $15 million
Director: $10 million
Principal cast: $27 million (Tobey Maguire: $17 million, Kirsten Dunst: $7 million, Alfred Molina: $3 million)
Other cast: $3 million
Production shooting costs: $45 million
Visual effects: $65 million
Composer Fees: $2 million
Music Costs: $2 million
TOTAL: $200 million
The top five movie franchises (as of 2009):
1. Star Wars: $6.9 billion
2. The Lord of the Rings: $3.1 billion
3. Harry Potter: $4.6 billion
4. Jurassic Park: $2.7 billion
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: $2.6 billion
For further reading: George Lucas’s Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success edited by Alex Ben Block and Lucy Autrey Wilson, George Lucas Books (2010).