Competitive Structure: Modern Movies vs. Fifth-Century Athenian Tragedies

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In fifth-century Athens, tragic poets competed for acclaim. Modern movies, in contrast, compete intensely for the attention of movie-goers. Movie box-office receipts are highly skewed toward blockbuster movies. A large share of movie revenue comes from opening week box-office receipts. Because opening week receipts are crucial for a movie’s success, pre-release marketing of movies is intense.

Movies formally compete for acclaim in the form of Academy Awards. Movie industry professionals determine those awards. The Academy Awards are bestowed in an event that generates considerable publicity for movies. Academy Awards are often cited in movie marketing. The practical significance of Academy Awards and other similar awards for movies is much less than that of box office receipts. Rather than indicating independently significant competition for acclaim, Academy Awards largely function in competition for attention. No movie producer seeks to win an Academy Award with a box-office flop.

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