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By Charles Peirce
In Adventures in the Screentrade, William Goldman famously opined that “nobody knows anything” in Hollywood, a curious concession for a man with such a marked record of success. The truth, though, is that Hollywood has always known something — its very business centered not just on creating hits but also on predicting future ones.
Originally the Studio System developed a series of principals which, if not always guaranteeing success, at least mitigated against disaster. That legacy persists today, albiet more loosely: in coverage, screenwriting structure, and the identifying of a film with its stars. The rise of the blockbuster didn’t undo the Studio System legacy, but it did change the metrics of success — once the end product becomes less bodies in seats and more associated merchandise, the thinking on what makes a good movie changes significantly. New aims call for new methods, and Hollywood has evolved its strategies with the times. [...]