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‘The $11 Billion Year’ Explores a Year in the Movies

‘The $11 Billion Year’ Explores a Year in the Movies post image

Title: The $11 Billion Year: From Sundance to the Oscars, an Inside Look at the Changing Hollywood System
Author: Anne Thompson
Genre: Nonfiction
Year: 2014
Publisher: Newmarket for It Books
Acquired: From the publisher for review consideration
Rating: ★★★½☆

Review: Why do some movies succeed while others fail? How does marketing — domestically and across the globe — impact the financial and critical reception for a given film? How do low-budget indies and studio blockbusters actually get made? These are some of the questions that entertainment journalist Anne Thompson attempts to answer in her book The $11 Billion Year.

The $11 Billion Year is a look inside a little more than one year of the movie business, starting with the Sundance Film Festival in January and following through to the 85th Academy Awards the next February. In case your memory of movies is as bad as mine, the Best Picture nominees that year were Argo (the winner), Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty. Other blockbuster movies included The AvengersThe Dark Knight RisesThe Hunger Games and Skyfall.

Although Thompson’s choice of 2012 for her year in film was based, in part, on when she wanted to write this book, it turned out to be a good exemplar of a year — the 2012 domestic movie box office brought in a record-breaking amount, $11 billion (about 8.4 percent over the previous year). It was also a year of major retirements (George Lucas), a growing shift of actors and producers to television, and the ongoing tension of digital media.

A bit like Console Wars (which, coincidentally, was also published by It Books), The $11 Billion Year is a business book informed heavily by the characters in the industry. Thompson brings her years of experience as a critic and a blogger (Thompson on Hollywood) to look at the global business of movies as well as the specific people making waves in the film industry today. It’s a comprehensive and largely interesting overview of how Hollywood works and doesn’t work today.

I really enjoyed the way this book was structured. Thompson was smart about her focus — the nine Best Picture nominees — and how those movies can tell bigger stories about movies that succeed and fail. Choosing these movies offered a balance between the extreme ends of the film spectrum, $500 million blockbusters and low budget indies. Not knowing much about the movie business, I was fascinated.

My one critique of the book is that it got a little repetitive at the end. Her final chapter, “Ten Things That Changed the Oscar Race” is largely a repeat of observations from the preceding chapters. I would have rather closed with a little broader picture of the industry and some educated predictions about the future — topics covered briefly in the afterward. Overall, I think this is an interesting book for people curious about how movies are made and encourage you to pick it up if you get the chance.

A Little Extra Reading

In the introduction of the book, Thompson notes that this book was inspired by another classic piece of entertainment reporting. Since I finished the book, I’ve stumbled across a bunch of books related to movies and entertainment that I wanted to share:

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Trisha May 21, 2014, 7:37 am

    Absolutely fascinating. Then again, despite my love of movies, the title of the book does depress me a bit. What a drastic amount of money. 🙂

    • Kim May 22, 2014, 8:43 pm

      It’s even more when you count the international sales. I can’t remember the number, but it’s totally insane.

  • Jenny @ Reading the End May 21, 2014, 2:48 pm

    Aaaaaand I’ve added this and The Season to my wishlist (Tales from Development Hell was already on there). I’m glad this one deals with such a recent movies season — I remember all those movies, so it’ll be easy to know what she’s talking about with each one. I do want to read The Season, but I’m worried it’ll be inaccessible because all those plays happened before I was born.

    • Kim May 22, 2014, 8:45 pm

      I wondered the same thing about The Season. I’m fascinated by the premise, but I wonder if it’ll feel dated at this point.

  • Athira May 22, 2014, 6:39 am

    This sounds like a fascinating read for anyone who loves watching movies, and especially following awards. Probably a good gift for such a person too!

  • Jennine G. May 22, 2014, 8:23 am

    I have two movie fanatic friends who would love his book! Thanks.