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电影业究竟靠什么赚钱?

  How Does the Film Industry Actually Make Money?

  电影业究竟靠什么赚钱?

  I’ve been trying to come to terms with two seemingly irreconcilable facts. First, “Men in Black 3” has made more than $550 million worldwide. Second, while a representative from the parent company of Columbia Pictures told me that the movie is now “in the win column,” it seemed until recently as if Columbia might actually lose money on it. How could that be? It’s not so complicated. Its production costs were close to $250 million; worldwide marketing most likely added at least that much; and a big chunk of the ticket sales go to theaters and distributors.

  我一直在努力理解两个看似矛盾的事实。第一,《黑衣人3》(Men in Black 3)在全球收入已过5.5亿美元。第二,当哥伦比亚电影公司母公司的一位代表告诉我,该片目前“正在赚钱”时,给人的感觉是哥伦比亚的这部片子直到不久前都在赔钱。这怎么可能呢?其实并不那么费解。该片的制作费将近2.5亿美元;全球推广很有可能至少也是这个数;还有大笔票房收入要分给院线跟发行商。

  There must be an easier way to make money. For the cost of “Men in Black 3,” for instance, the studio could have become one of the world’s largest venture-capital funds, thereby owning a piece of hundreds of promising start-ups. Instead, it purchased the rights to a piece of intellectual property, paid a fortune for a big star and has no definitive idea why its movie didn’t make a huge profit. Why is anyone in the film industry?

  一定会有更便当的法子赚钱。就以《黑衣人3》的成本为例,制片公司完全可以成为全球最大的风险投资基金,在数百家有前途的初创公司中分得部分 权益。情况恰恰相反,它先要为购入知识产权花费一笔,再给一个大明星支付高额片酬,之后也说不清自己拍摄的电影为什么赚不到大钱。为什么电影业没人觉悟呢?

  影迷们在一家电影院门口排队等待看电影《饥饿游戏》。

  All business requires guessing, but future predilections of moviegoers are especially opaque. If a large company wants to introduce a new car, it can at least base its predictions, in part, on factors like where oil prices are headed. Movie executives, on the other hand, come up with a host of new theories each summer about what audiences want — 3-D tent poles, 2-D tent poles, vampires, comics, board games and so on — then, sometimes over the course of a weekend, ricochet toward a new theory. Will the tepid economics of “Men in Black 3” spell trouble for “The Amazing Spider-Man,” this holiday weekend’s big release? Who knows.

  做任何生意都需要猜测,但影迷的口味尤其难以捉摸。如果一家大公司想推出一款新车,它的预测起码可以建立在诸如油价趋势这类因素上。但是电影业的高管们每年夏天就只能凭空推想观众想要看什么——3D、2D,吸血鬼、动画、桌面游戏等等——结果就是一个周末的功夫,风向突然就转了。《黑衣人3》不温不火的成绩,是否预示着这个周末将要上映的《超凡蜘蛛侠》(The Amazing Spider-Man)前景堪虞?谁知道呢。

  Unlike other decades-old industries, Hollywood not only has a hard time forecasting, but it also has difficulty analyzing past results. Why was “The Hunger Games” such a big hit? Because it had a built-in audience? Because it starred Jennifer Lawrence? Because it was released around spring break? The business is filled with analysts who claim to have predictive powers, but the fact that a vast majority of films fail to break even proves that nobody knows anything for sure.

  好莱坞跟其他经营数十年的产业的不同之处在于,现在它不仅很难对前景做出预测,而且很难对已取得的成绩进行分析。为什么《饥饿游戏》(The Hunger Games)能一炮而红?是因为它有铁杆观众群?是因为由詹妮弗·劳伦斯(Jennifer Lawrence)担任主角?是因为它赶在春假期间上映?业界充斥着声称拥有预测能力的分析家,但大量电影赔钱的事实证明,没人能对任何事情打保票。

  Making matters more complicated is that the industry is filled with professionals — starting with the lowliest junior agents — adept at explaining why they were responsible for a project’s success. This self-mythologizing has real economic impact. Most major brands spend lots of money ensuring that people have a positive association with them, but most people don’t even notice which studio made which movie. (Disney and its Pixar subsidiary are notable exceptions, “John Carter” notwithstanding.) In fact, movie studios are much better at helping brands they don’t own — certain stars, directors, producers and source material, like “The Hunger Games” — capture a huge chunk of the money.

  电影业遍地都是专家,这让情况变得更加复杂。从最基层的初级经纪人往上走,所有人都能滔滔不绝地解释为什么自己是某个项目成功的原因。这种自我神话真地会产生经济影响。大部分主流品牌花费巨资,为的是让人们对品牌产生正面联想,但大部分人甚至并没有注意到哪个电影公司拍了哪部电影(迪士尼和下属的皮克斯动画是两个显著的例外,虽然它们也拍出了《异星战场》[John Carter]这样的片子)。电影公司帮那些不归自己管的品牌方面表现出色得多,甚至赚了个盆满钵满,比如某些明星、导演、制片人和像《饥饿游戏》这类电影的原始小说。

  The reason a majority of movie studios still turn a profit most years is that they have found ways to, as they say, monetize the ancillary stream by selling pay-TV and overseas rights, creating tie-in video games, amusement-park rides and so forth. And the big hits, rare as they may be, pay for a lot of flops. Still, the profits are not huge. Matthew Lieberman, a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, expects growth over the coming years to be somewhere around 0.6 percent.

  大多数电影公司在大多数年份仍然还能赚钱。用他们自己的话来说,是因为找到了副业收入的路子,比如销售付费电视转播权和海外播映权,制作配套电玩游戏,授权游乐园游戏等。同时,虽然叫座电影数量可能极其有限,但只要有那么几部,就能打平许多电影的损失。尽管如此,电影业的利润并不丰厚。普华永道的一位主管马修·李伯曼(Matthew Lieberman)预测说,今后这几年电影业的年增长率在0.6%左右。

  Hollywood is, somewhat surprisingly, a remarkably stable industry. Over the past 80 years or so, its basic model — in which financiers in New York lend money to creative people in Los Angeles — has been largely unaltered. Partly as a result, today’s biggest studios — Columbia, Disney, Paramount, Warner Brothers, Universal, 20th Century Fox — have been on top since at least the 1950s. This stability is initially puzzling because movie studios don’t have many assets. Worse, every one of their projects is a short-term collaboration between a bunch of independent agents. 纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com

  让人有点惊奇的是,好莱坞是个极其稳定的行业。在过去这80多年来,它的基本模式就是纽约的融资者把钱借给洛杉矶的创意人士,这一点在很大程度上并未改变。在一定程度上这导致了如今最大的几家电影公司——哥伦比亚、迪士尼、派拉蒙、华纳兄弟、环球以及20世纪福克斯——它们至少从20世纪50年代开始,就一直名列前茅。能保持这样的稳定性,乍一看让人疑惑,因为电影公司没有太多资产。更奇怪的是,电影公司旗下的项目周期都很短,是一群独立经纪人协作下的产物。

  A modern studio’s main asset, however, is its ability to put together these disparate elements. They know how to get Tom Cruise to do a film, how to get it into theaters around the country and whom to call to set up a junket in Doha. They also know the industry’s language of power, with its ever-changing rules about which stars, restaurants and scripts are cool and which are not. It’s the stuff of easy parody, but it’s worth billions.

  一家当代电影公司的主要资产,其实就是它将迥异的元素组合到一起的能力。它们知道怎样请汤姆·克鲁斯(Tom Cruise)拍部电影,怎样将电影打入全国的电影院,也知道想要在多哈办发布会该打谁的电话。它们还通晓业内的话语权,明白不断变化的游戏规则,哪些影星、哪家餐馆、哪个剧本现在正红,哪些已经过气,它们都了如指掌。这些门道虽然很容易被山寨,但价值也数以亿计。

  Another reason these studios remain at the top is that for most entrepreneurs, taking them on isn’t worth the risks. (Even big hits often take years — sometimes a full decade — to break even.) “If I’m sitting on $2 billion, will I invest in a Hollywood studio?” asks Anita Elberse, a Harvard Business School professor who studies the entertainment industry. “Many other industries have a higher return on investment.” Billionaires like Anil Ambani, who is a partner in Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios, presumably invest because the glamour helps them with their other businesses.

  这些电影公司仍然独孤不败的另一个原因在于,对绝大多数企业家而言,拿它们开刀实在是得不偿失(即使是那些卖座电影,往往也需要花几年,有时是整整10年,这才能做到收支平衡)。“假如我有20亿美元,我会投资好莱坞的电影公司吗?”安妮塔·埃尔贝斯(Anita Elberse)是哈佛商学院教授,专门研究娱乐业,她说:“很多其他行业的投资回报率要更高。”一些亿万富翁,比如斯蒂文·斯皮尔伯格(Steven Spielberg)的梦工厂合伙人安尼尔·安巴尼(Anil Ambani),他们之所以愿意投资这一行,推想起来大概是因为电影业的光环对他们的其他业务有帮助。

  People have predicted the demise of the film industry since the dawn of TV and, later, the appearance of VHS, cable and digital piracy. But Fabrizio Perretti, a management professor at the Università Bocconi in Italy, says that Hollywood is now actually destroying itself. Because it’s harder to get financing and audiences, companies are competing to make bigger, costlier films while eliminating risk, which is why ever-more movies are based on existing intellectual property. Eighteen of the all-time 100 top-grossing movies (adjusted for inflation) were sequels, and more than half of those were released since 2000.

  多年来人们一直在预测着电影业的覆灭。从电视出现开始,再到录像机、有线电视和数字盗版的涌现。但意大利博科尼大学(Università Bocconi)管理学教授法布里齐奥·佩莱蒂(Fabrizio Perretti)表示,好莱坞现在是在“自寻死路”。由于各家公司很难找到融资,争取到观众,于是在竞相拍摄耗资巨大的大片,同时,他们又在尽可能规避风险,所以现在越来越多的电影都是根据已有的知识产权内容拍摄的。在史上100部总收入最高(已根据通胀率进行调整)的电影中,有18部是续集,而且其中有超过半数是在2000年以后发行的。

  Predictability might win the weekend, Perretti says, but it could eventually make people weary. Meanwhile, Lieberman, from PricewaterhouseCoopers, sees significant growth in another entertainment business that’s constantly experimenting with different models, distribution methods and ways of telling stories. Maybe TV is finally going to kill movies after all.

  佩莱蒂说,可预测性或许能打赢一个周末的仗,但最终会让人厌烦。另一厢,普华永道的李伯曼则看到了另一个娱乐业显著的增长,那就是电视,这个行业在不断实验不同的模式、发行手段和叙事方式。也许终有一天,电视将剿杀电影。

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