Do you ever wonder why so many movies now have a number at the end? Superman 3, Batman 5, Fast and Furious 1, 2, 3, 4...(we could go on.) Anita Elberse, professor at Harvard Business School, certainly did. In her new book, Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment, Elberse argues that, despite living in a world with more media sources and entertainment options than ever, our tastes are converging on the flashiest blockbuster hits and the biggest superstars.
Elberse examines the example of Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios who oversaw Warner Bros.'s wildly popular Harry Potter and Batman series. Horn had what seemed to be a counterintuitive idea: instead of spending studio money on lots of different films, giving the viewers choices, he funneled money into a small handful of "blockbuster" movies with big stars. It worked. Horn's strategy was wildly successful, and this success has inspired more and more entertainment executives to swing for the fences and go all in on products guaranteed to make a profit, rather than taking risks on more under-the-radar films.
The result? Though many believed that having a plethora of media sources available would lead to more niche products, that hasn't quite been the case. In fact, as Elberse puts it: "In fact, what is happening is the exact opposite."