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George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success [Paperback]

Alex Ben Block , Lucy Autrey Wilson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Jan 2010

By meticulously compiling the details of how movies have been made and financed since the medium′s inception, chronicling their performances at the box office, and offering expert commentary about the most important trends of the last one hundred years, the authors of this book have given readers a singularly unique perspective on the film-making industry and a superlative blueprint for future successful filmmaking ventures.

Taking us decade by decade, this book focuses on the revenues, costs, production and distribution of 300 of the most critically and financially successful movies of all time from the business′s origins through 2005. Its numerous essays examine trends in war, noir, bio-drama, biblical, epic, musical, western, disaster, crime, and action adventure films, as well as the advent the summer movie, auteur filmmaking, and the revolutionary advances that have been made in film technology over time. Furthermore, its full complement of charts, graphs and diagrams presenting such things as salary histories, awards and honors, the number of principal photography days required, advertising expenditures, domestic versus overseas profits and more, also include conversions of past movie-making dollars into current dollar values for easy and relevant comparisons.

The ideal resource for filmmakers of every kind, this book evidences that blockbusters have not only been made on relatively low budgets before, but that they have been made time and time again through varying economic climates.

George Lucas′s Blockbusting is indispensible reading for all who love and contribute to the film business.

Product details

  • Paperback: 976 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; 1 edition (15 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061778893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061778896
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 19.1 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 661,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"This is a fascinating and carefully documented examination of the art and business of American moviemaking and its evolution over time - how our most popular pictures were made and received, how the landscape of film has shifted through the years. An invaluable historical tool." --Martin Scorsese

About the Author

Alex Ben Block is an internationally known entertainment industry journalist, author, broadcaster, and show business historian. He was Editor of two of Hollywood's top trade publications-The Hollywood Reporter and Television Week, which Block helped successfully re-launch. He was also an Associate Editor of Forbes magazine and a movie critic in Detroit, Miami, and Los Angeles. He oversaw programming for the American Pavilion at Cannes, 2008. Currently Editor-at-Large for The Hollywood Reporter and Show Business Historian for Hollywood Today. Lucy Autrey Wilson began her career with Lucasfilm in 1974, typing the script to the first Star Wars movie on an IBM Selectric typewriter. She then explored areas as diverse as construction, film, special effects, licensing, and merchandising. In the late 1980s, she launched an all-new Star Wars publishing program comprised of more than 1,500 titles, including 63 New York Times bestsellers, before moving on to new challenges in nonfiction publishing. She currently serves as the Director of Publishing for George Lucas Books, a division of JAK Films.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and very detailed overview 21 Feb 2010
Excellent and very detailed overview of the 300+ movies from the last 100 years of so and their financial and critical succeses.

One bad thing about the book is that it is ridden with typos. Another thing is the strange fact that it stop in 2005, no movies from 2006-2010 are included even thought the book just came out.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, Great Service 23 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The service for this and many other products ordered from Amazon is just fantastic. The prices are very competitive, products almost always available and the quality of service and delivery spot on. Other retailers particularly 'bricks and mortar' ones could learn a lot from this game changing company. Oh and the book is an excellent resource material for anyone serious about movie history and educational institutions. It dispels the myth that the older films were always better and that classic automatically means successful.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, Overwhelming Look at the Movies 10 Jan 2010
By Book 'em Dano - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Susan Hayward as Margo Channing in the 1950 hit "All About Eve"? Clint Eastwood as one of the two alien-fighting "Men in Black"? Neither of these castings actually happened, but they almost did. These are just two of the seemingly zillions of fascinating, interesting tidbits found among the pages of this massive, detailed look at 300 "blockbusting" films.

The 300 films profiled were picked by George Lucas. Arranged by decade, from the early silents to present-day (and including potential future trends), the information includes an overall look at each decade -- the trends, the culture, the innovations, the filmmakers -- and then profiles a number of films that have stood the test of time from each period. Charts, graphs and tables supplement the material, offering samplings of studio mogul and stars' salaries, film budgets, celebrities' popularity and more, with financial info presented both in original dollar figures as well as figures adjusted to 2005 levels. Amazing stuff.

Also included are easy-to-understand sidebars, like the section explaining the various "widescreen" formats (CinemaScope vs. VistaVision vs. Cinerama, etc.; something I always found confusing, until now), and interesting profiles on such popular luminaries as Alfred Hitchcock, the Marx Brothers, Walt Disney, and others. A glorious look at movies, movies, and more movies. If you make them, finance them, write them, or simply LOVE them, this 975-page book is a great, almost overwhelming look at some of the greatest movie "blockbusters" of the silver screen. Highly recommended.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what he wanted... 21 Jan 2010
By amf0001 - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My husband saw George Lucas being interviewed about this book on John Stewart and really wanted it. I ordered it for him and he was even more delighted than he thought he would be. It's an easy lay out to dip in and out of, you grab a page and it gives you so much juicy and interesting information about the making of that particular movie. It's great for movie buffs and for those who like to know background stories. It makes a great gift, esp for those hard to buy for men, if he's mildly interested in the background of how movies are made, then get it and they won't be disappointed.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sourcebook For The Film Industry 11 Mar 2010
By O Shepard - Published on
This remarkable reference is just what students of the film industry have always needed. Published under the imprint of George Lucas Books, it is a compilation of 300 films that have made an impact on the business of film production over the decades. Be aware that this is not a book for film fans who want information on those films that are termed 'blockbusters' but a guide to understanding what factors have contributed to the industry's ability to make or loss money on select films. Each decade contains a lengthy description of the cultural, economic, and technical factors that contributed to the business of movie making, an insider's take on key films produced, and a breakdown of costs with many other details. Obviously for an almost 1,000 page volume filled with millions of facts, there are bound to be some errors, but none are significant, nor are there any that cannot be fixed in future editions. The volume end with 2005 data because the editors did not want to include any more unreliable data then necessary (a real problem in data collection for the industry over the years), however, additional and more current data is available on the book's website. The films contained were selected by George Lucas who wrote the preface to the book along with a foreword by Francis Ford Coppola. The main text is a collaborative effort by over 18 film writers. For those interested in the film industry as a business, this is the book for you. Highly recommended and quite an achievement.

Update: After going over this book a second time, I discovered a lot more errors. Some are typos that should have been caught by a copy editor. The number of errors calls into question the books usefulness as a reliable sourcebook so I have downgraded my 5-star review to 3-stars. Hopefully a new edition will correct the mistakes.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some big mistakes... and too many ommissions. 14 Feb 2010
By Ethan Edwards - Published on
I bought this book, and one of the first movies I looked up had a glaring mistake. The movie "The Sting" lists Robert Redford as winning the Best Actor award. He didn't win it that year, or any other year. I haven't been through the whole book to know if that was a fluke, or one of many. But how could a mistake like that go unoticed?

What also bothered me was the ommission of several movies I was hoping to read up on. For instance, Sylvester Stallone was in several of the biggest blockbusters on the 1980's, and some were culteral icons. And not ONE is included. Neither is Die Hard, which really changed the way action movies were made. Yet several small, forgotten movies are highlighted.

It's matter of where your tastes lie, and ome may love the book. But I expected more... and certainly more proof reading.

Also, all figures in the book are adjusted to 2005 numbers, yet the book was just realeased in 2010. I don't get it!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting , Especially the Early Years - 22 Feb 2010
By Loyd E. Eskildson - Published on
"Blockbusting" is an in-depth look at how 300 of the biggest and best movies made it to the screen. The material covering the early years of the industry is particularly interesting. At least one movie/year, from 1913 through 2005, is included. The first movie, 'Monkeyshines,' was made by Edison's assistant William Dickson, was 5 seconds long, and used Eastman's flexible roll film. Edison decided the technology didn't produce a strong enough image to project on a big screen and exhibited it in a coin-operated upright cabinet with a peephole. After some further experiments, Dickson settled on 35 mm wide film. The viewing machines cost $250, and a view was 5 cents. In 1895 Dickson left Edison and began filming with Mary Pickford and the Gish sisters.

'The Great Train Robbery' (1903) was one of the first era of film-making most memorable products. It ran 12 minutes, cost $800, and was completed in 4 days. Films at that time were sold by the foot, and ran until audiences lost interest or the film was in tatters and no longer usable. By 1907, however, there were 150 movie exchanges that rented movies for one-fifth the purchase price. New releases were shipped out ahead of time so they could be promoted nationally and open on the same day across the country. Block booking soon followed - this required theaters to take at least one print of every movie the producer made. French movies at the time were considered better by many - even prior to 1908 the French were offering color, and by 1909 they introduced newsreels covering events around the world. Movie rates rose to a dime in 1909. The major film producers of the future, Warner, Loew, Mayer, all started as New York city film exhibitors on or before 1907.

Edison's General Film Company took films costing about $700 to make and made $7,000+ from each one - Edison had exclusive deals with Eastman Kodak and filmmakers. Distributors had to sell themselves to Edison's firm to participate, or rely solely on European films. Turns out Edison was both a great inventor and hard-nosed businessman as well. However, lawsuits in 1912 broke up Edison's monopolies. In 1919 Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin joined Douglas Fairbanks and others to form United Artists, which controlled all aspects of movie-making and distribution. The decade's leading film was 'The Birth of the Nation' (1915), covering the U.S. after the Civil War. Producers of that time refused to put the names of actors on each movie, not wanting them to become more famous and then demand more money. This stratagem was undone by astute theater operators that posted the stars' names outside to increase draw. Movie star cults and movie magazines followed.

The first Academy Awards was held in 1929 as a private dinner, the following year it was broadcast on radio, and went live on TV in 1953.

Warner Bros. was first with sound (1926), but theaters had to synchronize the separate audio and video systems; many theater-goers were not happy with its replacing a regular orchestra - seen as inferior. Fox followed the next year with an improved system that was incorporated into its Movietone News. The first showing - Lindbergh taking off for Paris, brought a ten-minute standing ovation. By 1928, Fox was on to making 'tallkies.'

Color didn't become common until the 1950s - differentiation from newly introduced TV was a major motivation. Fox, and Darryl Zanuck, had been the major exception regarding use of color up to that point.

Early theaters (eg. 1917) were cooled by fans blowing air over blocks of ice - expensive and not very effective. Thus, theaters in warm climates closed for the summer season. The 1930s brought the spread of newer cooling systems, adapted from those used in meat-packing plants. Theaters became a respite from the heat, and the movie content less important. Revenues were further boosted by showing double-features, candy and soda sales, special promotions and give-aways, and the construction of elaborate facilities. The 1940s, however, brought a government-forced separation of movie production from distribution. The 1950s then brought the licensing of movies for TV broadcasting.

President Roosevelt formed the Office of War Information (OWI) in 1941 to sell the war and American propaganda. The intent was to portray a united America (workers and employers) making joint sacrifices for the war effort. Combat films were supposed to include a multi-ethnic cast, and all allies (including Russia) shown favorably. Compliance was not legally mandated, but aided by the fact that many movie moguls at the time were immigrant Jews who were deeply disturbed by events in Europe. Another favorable factor was that the OWI controlled films shown in liberated countries and could hold ticket revenues until it felt a studio was 'behaving.' Regardless, Paramount didn't comply - the only major studio.

Walt Disney came into prominence during these same years - his 'The Three Little Pigs' ran 8 minutes and was a smash hit. Full-length 'Snow White' took four years, was also a hit, but required mortgaging almost everything he had.

Today's innovations include switching to digital (clearer, easier to distribute), and the introduction of 3-D.
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