Tuesday, January 5, 2010

George Lucas's Blockbusting

George Lucas's Blockbusting, a massive new book with a somewhat different take on the great films of the past, has just been published by IT books. Film buffs of all stripes - including those who love silent film - will find something of interest in this new work.

George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-by-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success, by Alex Ben Block and Lucy Autrey Wilson, focuses on the production histories of 300 of the most critically acclaimed and financially successful movies of all time.

Among the contributors to this 976 page work are a few film historians known to the local silent film community. David Kiehn and Robert S. Birchard wrote the entries in the section of the book devoted to the silent era. Kiehn, the main historian at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, California is a regular SFSFF attendee as well as  the author of Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company. Southern California resident Birchard, who has been spotted more then a few times at the Festival, is the author of a handful of books including, most recently, Early Universal City. Other contributors include local film historians Russell Merritt and Matthew Kennedy, as well as one-time San Francisco Examiner film critic Michael Sragow.

According to the publisher, "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."

Decade by decade and film by film, the book examines the revenues, costs, production and distribution of 300 movies - from the film industry's earliest days through 2005. A recently launched blog highlighting various aspects of the book can be found at http://blockbustingbook.blogspot.com/

The numerous essays found in George Lucas's Blockbusting examine trends in war, noir, biblical, epic, musical, western, disaster, crime, action adventure, and other genres. Additionally, a full complement of charts, graphs and diagrams presents production length, salary histories, awards and honors, advertising expenditures, domestic versus overseas profits, and more. Also included are conversions of past movie-making dollars into current dollar values.

What's the biggest grossing silent film of all time? The answer, likely, won't surprise you. But what may interest you to learn is that in today's dollars, this 1915 film has earned a remarkable $522 million - and which ranks it 21st all time. It is the highest ranked silent film. Another, Daddy Long Legs (1919), ranks 238th with earnings of more than $208 million.

All together, 7 films from the 1910's and 23 films from the 1920's are included among the 300 featured in George Lucas's Blockbusting. Find out more by exploring the nifty widget for this fascinating and detail rich new book.

[George Lucas's Blockbusting is available on-line and at better bookstores. Copies will also be available at the mezzanine booktable at this summer's San Francisco Silent Film Festival.]


  1. Tonight, George Lucas will be on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart to talk about this new book. "The Daily Show" airs on Comedy Central.

  2. On the "Daily Show," director George Lucas mentioned film historian Kevin Brownlow. . . .