My thesis examines the New Hollywood period from 1966 to 1985, focusing in particular on the impact of the economic recession in the early 1970s.


Five blockbuster films are examined in detail: The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars, Grease and Back to the Future. These are studied as means to investigate the evolution of the blockbuster business model throughout this period, and the extent to which various factors marking the success of blockbuster films became replicated. 


The thesis offers a qualitative study within a quantitative framework. The quantitative elements comprise mainly statistical box office revenue data over a time period and the corresponding studio’s stock share price movement during the film’s release. The case studies share many defining characteristics that are innovative and central to the development of blockbuster films, but also contain diverse elements contingent upon a cluster analysis, designed to provide an optimal validation of their role.


Due to the constant evolution of the term, it is difficult to define the innovation of the blockbuster business model in a way that encompasses complexities objectively. However, this thesis contends that there are proxy markers of blockbuster films that add research value to understanding the evolution of the blockbuster business model and its appeal to studio executive management. 


These markers are scale of production budget, saturation booking of theatres, scope of advertising campaign, visual effects, audience research, source of adaptation or original creative material, extent of roles and control in business and artistic domains, use of star and celebrity talent, film reviews, impact on stock price value and annual financial report, and then markers of narrative development for blockbuster status.


The extent to which these markers are present best defines the blockbuster film. The markers thus constitute a valuable guide for minimizing and controlling the risks of investments in development, production and marketing and promotion.


They also signal how studios might position a film for a successful release where revenue streams extend beyond the initial box office release phase and consolidate the profitable returns on investment in a long-tailed economic phenomenon. Through investigating and mapping out the evolution of these markers, this thesis offers new insights regarding the development and viability of the blockbuster business model during this period and beyond.

I will be making available updates on my research as we go along.

(c) Dr. Alexander Ross 2021

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