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The $11 Billion Year: From Sundance to the Oscars, an Inside Look at the Changing Hollywood System

The $11 Billion Year: From Sundance to the Oscars, an Inside Look at the Changing Hollywood System

by Anne Thompson

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"This chronicle of 2012 is a slice of what happened during a watershed year for the Hollywood movie industry. It's not the whole story, but it's a mosaic of what went on, and why, and of where things are heading."

What changed in one Hollywood year to produce a record-breaking box office after two years of decline? How can the Sundance Festival influence a


"This chronicle of 2012 is a slice of what happened during a watershed year for the Hollywood movie industry. It's not the whole story, but it's a mosaic of what went on, and why, and of where things are heading."

What changed in one Hollywood year to produce a record-breaking box office after two years of decline? How can the Sundance Festival influence a film's fate, as it did for Beasts of the Southern Wild and Searching for Sugar Man, which both went all the way to the Oscars? Why did John Carter misfire and The Hunger Games succeed? How did maneuvers at festivals such as South by Southwest (SXSW), Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, and New York and at conventions such as CinemaCon and Comic-Con benefit Amour, Django Unchained, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook, Les Misérables, The Life of Pi, The Avengers, Lincoln, and Argo? What jeopardized Zero Dark Thirty's launch? What role does gender bias still play in the industry? What are the ten things that changed the 2012 Oscar race?

When it comes to film, Anne Thompson, a seasoned reporter and critic, addresses these questions and more on her respected daily blog, Thompson on Hollywood. Each year, she observes the Hollywood machine at work: the indies at Sundance, the exhibitors' jockeying at CinemaCon, the international scene at Cannes, the summer tentpoles, the fall's "smart" films and festivals, the family-friendly and big films of the holiday season, and the glamour of the Oscars®. Inspired by William Goldman's classic book The Season, which examined the overall Broadway scene through a production-by-production analysis of one theatrical season, Thompson had long wanted to apply a similar lens to the movie business. When she chose 2012 as "the year" to track, she knew that box-office and DVD sales were declining, production costs were soaring, and the digital revolution was making big waves, but she had no idea that events would converge to bring radical structural movement, record-setting box-office revenues, and what she calls "sublime moviemaking."

Though impossible to mention all 670-plus films released in 2012, Thompson includes many in this book, while focusing on the nine Best Picture nominees and the personalities and powers behind them. Reflecting on the year, Thompson concludes, "The best movies get made because filmmakers, financiers, champions, and a great many gifted creative people stubbornly ignore the obstacles. The question going forward is how adaptive these people are, and how flexible is the industry itself?"

Editorial Reviews

There was a time when Hollywood used its mystique to rule over its world. Now things have changed: Film festivals, foreign markets; award nights; viral advertising campaigns; even strange new entities like YouTube and ComicCon all play a part in bringing home the box office bacon. Talented Hollywood Reporter columnist Anne Thompson has recreated the eventful 2011-2012 film season in all its strangeness, surprises, and wonders. Certain to be one of the most reviewed movie books of 2014.

Publishers Weekly
Veteran film reporter Thompson provides insight into the movie industry through the prism of one year, by chronicling the Hollywood successes and failures as they occur in the year 2012. She chats with director Benh Zeitlin on the collaborative nature the Sundance favorite Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Bradley Cooper on working with the "demanding" director David O. Russell on Silver Linings Playbook. At Cannes, Thompson speaks to Wes Anderson about Moonrise Kingdom and Michael Haneke on casting Amour. Thompson notes Hollywood's extreme risk aversion that results in a clinging to tent-poles and franchises while comparing the Disney marketing disaster John Carter to Lionsgate's wildly successful Hunger Games. Other subjects include the arduous production process of Life of Pi, Tony Kushner's struggles with the Lincoln screenplay, and Quentin Tarantino's inspiration for Django Unchained. Thompson also explains the newest models of acquisition and distribution including video-on-demand, independent self-releasing and technological switches to digital and 3-D. Finally, she takes readers to the Oscars and reviews the night's winners and losers. Thompson's insider perspective makes this a shrewd study of Hollywood's mechanics and challenges, as well as a nice celebration of the industry's best. (Mar.)
Annette Insdorf
The $11 Billion Year combines insight, intelligence, and irony. Whether Anne Thompson explains the growing importance of film festivals like Telluride, or dissects how a marketing strategy worked, she gives us ‘2012: A Movie Odyssey.’
David Black
I loved it! The $11 Billion Year is both a wonderful read and an informative one. Not always the same. Anyone who is interested in movies, business, or American culture should read this book. You could make a movie about this book about making (and marketing) movies!
Mixing behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the most notable films of 2012 with keen observations about the changing nature of the business, Thompson has crafted a page-turning look at the moviemaking industry that is bound to appeal to film buffs.
New York Daily News
An in-depth analysis of the changing business of filmmaking . . . Thompson also provides personally gleaned insights from the directors and stars of the major 2012 vehicles. Why didn’t the prestigious “Lincoln” win Best Picture? Read and learn.
Leonard Maltin
Nobody reports on the movie business with greater savvy or a sharper eye than Anne Thompson. In this valuable book she explores an entire year’s worth of events, clarifying the Big Picture while revealing insider details along the way. What a juicy read!
Nora Rawlinson
The $11 Billion Year makes you feel like a Hollywood insider. No matter how much you think you know about the movie industry, you’ll learn more from Anne Thompson. She lives and breathes the business.
Peter Rainer
Ace Hollywood analyst Anne Thompson not only knows where the bodies are buried—she digs them up for you!
David Thomson
Anne Thompson (her name is spelled correctly, and she has never suggested we are related) has for several years run one of the liveliest movie websites done with characteristic flair and aplomb. I am amazed by her cheerfulness, but I love hearing her give voice to it.
Kirkus Reviews
A yearlong chronicle of 2012's major films—from Sundance to Oscar night—highlighting the many challenges currently dogging the industry. It might be self-evident to point out that the film industry has not remained immune to the stark changes presented by digital technology. In Thompson's (Film Criticism/Univ. of Southern California) dissection of the film year, she provides an interesting case study for the future of the industry. After all, 2012 was a banner year for Hollywood, as her title suggests. However, the old model is being challenged by digital encroachment in a variety of ways. Therein lies the paradox of the new paradigm: Digitization is at once propelling the industry to untold revenues, while at the same time making it more difficult for the industry to stake out easy gains in a rapidly shifting and unpredictable landscape. More than ever, consumers have nearly limitless choices, further pressuring Hollywood to produce safe bets like gigantic, CGI-filled action flicks to pad out the bottom line. This type of stratification is not exclusive to Hollywood either, and a case could be made that Hollywood's problem is really a symptom of the larger, systemic problems with our technology-crazed economy. In her examination, Thompson tracks films, from fledgling indies, like Beasts of the Southern Wild, vying for distribution contracts on the festival circuit to major "tent-pole" summer blockbusters—both the successes, like Marvel's franchise juggernaut The Avengers, and flops, like Disney's disastrous John Carter. While the author undoubtedly understands the prevailing industry trends and how they are changing, she remains a reporter at heart. Rich with anecdotes and gossip, Thompson presents Hollywood as a living, breathing community. From executive firings and hirings to the stories behind films that almost never made it to the screen, Thompson's journalistic flair makes her analysis of the film industry a compelling and page-turning read. An insider investigation into the ways in which Hollywood is changing that will certainly prove invaluable in the coming years.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

Anne Thompson, who launched Indiewire's daily film blog Thompson On Hollywood for Variety in 2007, has covered the Hollywood beat for more than twenty-five years, writing for monthly, weekly, bi-weekly, and daily publications. For seven years she wrote the Risky Business column for the LA Weekly (and the Los Angeles Times Syndicate), followed by Filmmaker magazine and The Hollywood Reporter, where she also founded their first blog, Riskybiz, in 2005. Before that, she was West Coast Editor for Premiere, Empire, and Film Comment, and Senior Writer at Entertainment Weekly. She has also reported on film for the magazines Vanity Fair, More, Wired, Sight and Sound, Filmmaker, and New York, as well as for the newspapers the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the London Observer, and the Washington Post. Thompson currently hosts Sneak Previews at UCLA Extension, moderates and participates on industry panels, and does media interviews, especially at Oscar time, for such networks as MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN. Born and raised in Manhattan, she now lives in Los Angeles. The $11 Billion Year is her first book.

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