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Playing Hollywood’s numbers game

Six out of 10 movies fail to make money

Number-crunching always yields contradictory results. For example, Fox Searchlight’s “Once” is heading toward $7 million — roughly 46 times its production budget. Clearly this is a huge profit, but it would be misleading to label the pic more successful than “Spider-Man” or “Pirates.”

Numbers can mean whatever studios want them to mean. So it’s impossible to declare a real champion this summer, thanks to creative Hollywood bookkeeping.

When it comes to box office, all the studios want to look like winners — unless they don’t. Studio execs always brag that even the lowliest box office performer will make a profit, thanks to DVDs and other ancillary revenue.

However, with a possible writers and actors strike looming, the Alliance of Motion Pictures & Television Producers is offering another perspective. The org is proclaiming that the studios can’t afford to make many concessions, since six out of 10 movies fail to make money even after they are distributed across multiple platforms.

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