T’s an entire genre of economics studies centred around big-banner studio offerings, star billing for superstars, and box office returns.
Yes, I’ve heard the meme: it’s Economics that obeys the Laws of Rajinikanth, not the other way around.
Of course, everything about Kabali, which opens tomorrow, appears to validate that joke about the topsy-turvy world of the Superstar.
It seems to validate one aspect of what University of Chicago economist Sherwin Rosen noted in his seminal 1981 paper on ‘The Economics of Superstars’.
His study, which built on the work of British economist Alfred Marshall, was an exploration of the larger phenomenon of superstardom, win “Relatively small numbers of people earn enormous amounts of money and dominate the activities in which they engage.” And although it was conducted at a time when the technology-driven marketing potential of the performing arts, sports and literature was a fraction of what it is today, and although it was framed in another cultural context, it applies as much to Rajinikanth as to, say, cricketing superstar Virat Kohli or to JK Rowling, the world’s first billionaire author.
A 1999 study titled ‘Information, Blockbusters, and Stars: A Study of the Film Industry’ by S Abraham Ravid of Rutgers University established that in the context of Hollywood, “Stars play no role in the financial success of a film.” Similarly, it postulated, “Big budgets do not contribute to profitability: if anything, they may contribute to losses.”