Magazine August 2, 2010, Issue

Gross Profits

A promotional image for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Warner Bros.)

I  recently finished Hollywood Economics, a book by a brilliant mathematician named Arthur De Vany. I say “finished” instead of “read” because it’s filled with a lot of complicated graphs and tables and words like “Gaussian curve” and “fractal,” which resulted in my turning a lot of pages in eye-watering stupefaction. But I got the gist.

The gist is, the entertainment industry, where I toil ceaselessly in an effort to earn my little monthly pie, is a business of uncertainty and randomness, and whenever we try to hedge our bets — spending a lot of money on marketing, say, or paying

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