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MOVIES AND MONEY by David Puttnam

MOVIES AND MONEY

By David Puttnam

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-44664-8
Publisher: Knopf

A riveting behind-the-scenes look at how American movies have achieved the kind of global supremacy best summed up in a 1995 Variety headline: “Earth to Hollywood—You Win!” Starting with cinema’s earliest days, when all that an entrepreneur needed to create a film company was “fifty dollars, a broad, and a camera,” Puttnam follows the money, tracing the evolution of the film business worldwide from a slipshod entertainment into an assembly-line industry. As a producer and former head of Columbia Pictures, he’s well suited to the complex task. However, as a European cinÇaste, he also has an axe to grind. He wants to show that the dominance of American film was not achieved purely through free-market competition—and his case is almost convincing. Puttnam argues that Hollywood’s command of world markets began as far back as WWI. The war put an end to most European productions, and gave American film, with “help and support from the worlds of both finance and politics,” a decisive opportunity to penetrate (and lock up) market after market. America also enjoyed the advantage of a huge domestic marketplace, which allowed films to recoup their enormous costs without having to travel (most European films could not turn a profit unless and until they were exported). Puttnam admires America’s mastery of distribution and marketing. He recognizes that Europeans have largely failed to commodify their films, persuaded that good movies will somehow manage to find an audience. While he believes that Europe can still make inroads against Hollywood, he seems more excited by the possibilities of multimedia. And he’s sure that Europe (Britain especially) has a fighting chance to gain significant market share. Stacked against this optimistic prediction, though, is nearly 100 years of canny, sharp-elbowed American capitalism. Two thumbs up for this invaluable history of Hollywood’s most powerful mover and shaker: money (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)