‘The Big Picture’

“The Big Picture: The New Logic of Money and Power in Hollywood” by Edward Jay Epstein: A six-headed monster — Fox, Sony, NBC Universal, Time Warner, Viacom and Disney — is conspiring to control entertainment, Epstein warns us with all the calm of Kevin McCarthy running through the city, shouting about the alien pod people, in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

Epstein illuminates Hollywood’s shift from making movies to delivering intellectual property. He reveals how a blockbuster can be a financial loser, at least on the books, and why brief theatrical runs often are best. But he makes careless errors (citing 120 million TV homes in 1962, when the nation had fewer than 55 million households), and he acknowledges that Hollywood often puts prestige above profits in choosing which movies to make. That tendency ensures that movies aspiring for greatness continue to be made.

Although the players have changed, the fact is that a few companies motivated by money always have controlled the movie business. We’re left with no reason to fear the evil “sexopoly” that has Epstein in such a panic.

Rating: Don’t waste your time. Reviewed by Michael Jacobs (originally appeared in USA TODAY)