Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hitch your wagon to a star. Literally.

Star power! No, I don’t mean the one you check out in the daily newspaper’s astrological column. The star power I’m referring to is the contribution a star (in showbiz) makes to the success of the venture (s)he stars in, be it film, sports, even business. At the Harvard Business School, Professor Anita Elberse recently researched the concept and the dynamics of ‘star power. Her study included riddles like: Can studios depend on a star's track record to predict future success? Are two ‘A-list’ stars better than one? Can stars improve a studio's overall profitability and box office revenue on one movie? What stars attract the most ticket buyers? Her aim? To better understand if and how A-list stars contribute to Hollywood’s bottom line. Her modus operandi involved a design research not around actual box office receipts but rather around an online simulation game, called ‘The Hollywood Stock Exchange’ with over half a million players. Now all this sounds intriguing, almost esoteric, doesn’t it? She published her findings in a working paper, ‘The Power of Stars: Creative Talent and the Success of Entertainment Products’ . According to her, the notion of ‘star power’ “captures the extent to which an artist's involvement with an entertainment product contributes to the success of that product. … For example, in the case of films, powerful actors and actresses can help guarantee financing and push a movie through the development process; they can aid in generating interest from theaters across the globe seeking to show the film; and they can help to attract audiences to the film. Their power may find its origins in superior acting skills, a loyal fan base, a knack for picking the most promising projects, a strong relationship with other creative talent, a solid box-office record, or a combination of such factors.” Read her interview by Sarah Jane Gilbert, a content developer at HBS's Baker Library, (‘The Box Office Power of Stars’) here: By the way. ‘The Hollywood Stock Exchange’ has voluntary players who use ‘Hollywood dollars’ (virtual money) to “increase the value of their portfolio by, among other things, strategically trading ’MovieStocks’. The prices of these MovieStocks reflect expectations of box office revenues.”

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