Cinema and Media Studies Motion Picture Accounting
by
Mark Garrett Cooper
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 June 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0105

Introduction

Accounting measures and regulates social conduct. This makes it more broadly interesting than the basic math it typically employs. Accordingly, accounting has drawn the attention of historians, sociologists, economists, legal scholars, scholars of business and management, and even literary critics, in addition to generating a specialized literature by and for professional accountants. Because motion picture accounting organizes aesthetic practices on an industrial scale, it would seem especially ripe for multidisciplinary investigation. For a century at least, detailed cost estimates have informed and inspired creative choices about what appears on screen. Indeed, it seems the US film industry was an early and aggressive adopter of standard costing methods, in which budgets help manage production from the initial planning phases through distribution. Similarly, by 1920, Hollywood had developed one of the most distinctive features of motion picture accounting, the “income forecast method,” which relies on a theory of audience taste to depreciate the economic value of the films in a studio’s inventory. Internationally, accountants manage a complex system of production incentives designed to attract business, promote national culture, and sometimes advance alternatives to the commercial mainstream. For these reasons and others, motion picture accounting challenges familiar narratives that pit the art of motion pictures against the business of producing, distributing, and exhibiting them. Despite the richness of this topic, however, a research community has been slow to develop around it. Work in English on industries outside the United States is notably lacking. Even with respect to the mainstream US film and television industries, no comprehensive history of accounting practice exists; most general introductions to the topic describe procedures contemporary with them. Work in the loosely associated academic growth fields of media industry studies, cultural economics, and business history occasionally engages accounting practice, and salient examples from each of these fields are included here. A proper overview of these areas would, however, exceed the brief of this bibliography, which aims to energize work across them by encouraging interest in accounting as a research problem. Consistent with that aim, the bibliography does provide key entry points to the historical and theoretical literature on accounting systems, which may be less well known, particularly to researchers in the humanities. Similarly, beyond the general introductory sections, accounting problems central to media industries, as opposed to national, historical, or critical categories, organize the bibliography. For example, rather than a section on “globalization,” readers will find work on the development and function of international accounting conventions and work on systems encouraging the dispersal of production. Finally, although any researcher investigating this topic will find journalism an important resource, the bibliography generally eschews news stories in favor of more substantive, synthetic, and argumentative resources.

General Overviews

Most general discussions of motion picture accounting occur within overviews of the organization, financing, and business operations of the mainstream US film industry. This only makes sense—absent a basic understanding of the business, it would be impossible to grasp the distinctive features of its accounting practice. In the last decades of the 20th century, the expansion of nontheatrical markets for films (television, home video, etc.) and the growth of transnational multimedia conglomerates significantly complicated an already complex business. Recent worthwhile overviews of film accounting consider the whole media landscape. They also typically focus on financial accounting—which relates production, distribution, and exhibition to show profit or loss—rather than on managerial accounting—which guides producers’ decisions about resource allocation. Comparing the economics of all forms of entertainment, Vogel 2011 (the 8th edition) provides a definitive overview and devotes a chapter specifically to accounting for film and television. The volume anticipates graduate students in economics and management as its primary readers; although generous in explaining terms specific to entertainment industries, it assumes knowledge of general business terms and concepts. Vogel addresses a broader audience in his essay on movie accounting in Moul 2005; that essay is, however, less detailed and comprehensive. From different perspectives, Daniels, et al. 2006 and Goodell 1998 provide complementary overviews written for those working in the industry or aspiring to do so.

  • Daniels, Bill, David J. Leedy, and Steven D. Sills. Movie Money: Understanding Hollywood’s (Creative) Accounting Practices. 2d ed. Los Angeles: Silman-James, 2006.

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    Written primarily for writers, actors, and other talent, this book focuses on how revenues are accounted and distributed and how profit participation agreements are structured. It contains some information about production costs and budgeting as well. Many basic accounting terms and procedures are explained, and a glossary is included. The second edition provides improved discussion of residuals.

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    • Goodell, Gregory. Independent Feature Film Production: A Complete Guide from Concept through Distribution. Rev. ed. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998.

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      A how-to-guide for producers, Goodell’s volume sometimes considers accounting procedures specifically but is most useful as an explanation of the complex context in which they occur. Includes detailed chapters on budgeting and appendices with sample budgets.

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      • Moul, Charles C., ed. A Concise Handbook of Movie Industry Economics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511614422Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Written for a broad scholarly audience, this collection of essays introduces key aspects of the industry past and present from a range of disciplinary perspectives. Most of the contributions hold some interest for a student of motion picture accounting, and the volume includes a chapter specifically on the topic by Vogel.

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        • Vogel, Harold L. Entertainment Industry Economics: A Guide for Financial Analysis. 8th ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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          Since 1986, this text has been a definitive introduction to the business of entertainment for students of economics and management. Chapter 5 deals specifically with financial accounting in movies and television. Includes generous references and a glossary.

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          Historical Overviews

          These sources expand the limited historical perspective offered by more recent overviews. Leedy 1980 addresses an industry audience on the eve of a promulgation of new standards (see Standards) meant to reign in variant practices. Ogden 1961 surveys the then-young but booming television industry. Writing in a special issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science devoted to motion pictures, Odlum 1947 provides a concise and surprisingly informative survey of financial relationships connecting the industry’s various branches. Fielding 1992 describes a 1916 accounting manual. Finally, this section includes a number of works describing the evolution of business practices organized by accounting systems, without, however, making accounting a specific focus. These works are logical starting points for future investigation of accounting systems. Bakker 2011 provides a path-breaking comparative business history of mass entertainment in Britain, France, and the United States before 1940; and Kepley 1985 gives an overview of the early Soviet industry. Together, Johnston 1926 and Kennedy 1927 reveal that many of the problems and procedures particular to film accounting had been established by the late 1920s.

          • Bakker, Gerben. Entertainment Industrialised: The Emergence of the International Film Industry, 1890–1940. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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            Examining the development of mass entertainment from live theater through film in Britain, France, and the United States, business historian Bakker provides essential background for future investigations of accounting systems. His description of increases in “sunk cost” as an explanation for the dominance of the US film industry after WWI is particularly suggestive, as management of sunk cost required sophisticated accounting techniques.

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            • Fielding, Raymond. “Accounting Practices in the Early American Motion Picture Industry.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television 12.2 (1992): 115.

              DOI: 10.1080/01439689200260071Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Fielding discusses the fifty-four-page Memorandum of Moving Picture Accounts, July 10, 1916, by Price, Waterhouse & Co. He summarizes the information it provides about motion picture production, distribution, exhibition, and accounting practice. The University of Southern California and the Museum of Modern Art are known to hold copies of this rare document.

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              • Johnston, William A. “The Structure of the Motion Picture Industry.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 128 (1926): 20–29.

                DOI: 10.2307/1016194Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                The second and most useful of two overviews of the motion picture industry Motion Picture News editor Johnston published in the Annals in 1926, this essay describes the branches of production, distribution, and exhibition and provides information about production budgets and costs, contracts between distributors and exhibitors, financing large theaters, patterns of attendance, and foreign distribution.

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                • Kennedy, Joseph P., ed. The Story of the Films, as Told by Leaders of the Industry to the Students of the Graduate School of Business Administration, George F. Baker Foundation, Harvard University. Chicago: A. W. Shaw, 1927.

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                  A standard reference for historians of the US motion picture industry, this collection of essays by business leaders provides a valuable overview for those interested specifically in accounting. Contributions by bank president Attilio Giannini on film financing, Paramount Executive Vice-President Jesse Lasky on production, and Publix Theaters President Samuel Katz on theater management are especially illuminating.

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                  • Kepley, Vance, Jr. “The Origins of Soviet Cinema: A Study in Industry Development.” Quarterly Review of Film Studies 10.1 (1985): 22–38.

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                    Kepley discuss the astonishing industrial development of the Soviet industry in the 1920s. He attributes this to careful management and “shrewd exploitation of market forces” (p. 36) including foreign trade policies. Although not focused on accounting per se, the essay provides financial figures and indicates major decision makers.

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                    • Leedy, David J. Motion Picture Distribution: An Accountant’s Perspective. Los Angeles: Leedy, 1980.

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                      Written to counter misperceptions about motion picture accounting in the popular press and among industry insiders, this slim, self-published volume by a former MCA-Universal accountant provides a comprehensive overview of accounting practices in 1980. A bit difficult to find.

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                      • Odlum, Floyd B. “Financial Organization of the Motion Picture Industry.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 254 (1947): 18–25.

                        DOI: 10.2307/1026134Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        Investment company president and chairman of the board of Radio-Keith-Orpheum, Odlum describes where every cent of a dollar of box-office revenue goes. Working backward from the theater through the distributor, he concludes that 20 cents of each box-office dollar is available for production and 3 cents might be profit for the producing company. Includes a table of return on invested capital for major companies from 1936 to 1946.

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                        • Ogden, Warde B. The Television Business: Accounting Problems of a Growth Industry. New York: Ronald, 1961.

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                          Ogden, a partner at Price Waterhouse & Co, discusses when to record revenue, how to amortize production costs, how to account station operations, how to account barter transactions (e.g., of exhibition rights in exchange for commercial spots), and how to present financial statements. Includes an index and glossary of television terms.

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                          Archives

                          This section highlights a few archival collections of particular interest for the study of accounting systems. It is by no means a comprehensive list. Works in other sections provide pointers to many important archival resources not included here. Indeed, any significant collection of motion picture company records should contain materials illuminating its accounting practice. Not infrequently, archival organization may thwart understanding of the accounting system as a whole. For example, the production file for a particular film may provide detailed budget information, but financial accounting for that film will be located elsewhere, in the records of the accounting or other management department, which may not survive or may not be accessible. The bicoastal organization of the US film industry also presents an obstacle to the collection and organization of archival materials, as the accounting of films in production (as current assets) was typically done on the West Coast, while distribution and inventory (noncurrent assets) were accounted by East Coast departments. The Warner Bros. Archive is of particular interest both for its comprehensiveness and because it retains the corporation’s organization of materials. In addition to corporate archives, the records of prominent individuals, particularly those with profit participations, are likely to include some accounting information. The David O. Selznick Collection is exemplary in this regard. In the United States, corporate records generally find archival homes separate from government documents; in bringing these types of materials under one roof, Das Budesarchiv offers exciting possibilities for research in German. Similarly, the Makino Mamoru Collection is poised to open new avenues of research for Japanese-equipped researchers. Due to problems of scale, organization, and omission, a comprehensive sense of how historical accounting systems function may be extremely difficult to infer from the extant archival accounting record of particular enterprises. Many of the types of source included here offer a more direct route via descriptions of standard practice. Fortunately, the Digital Accounting Collection at the University of Mississippi is making hard-to-find materials from the United States discoverable online.

                          Accounting as Social Practice

                          The history and sociology of accounting have generated extensive bibliographies. This section provides points of entry for newcomers to this expansive literature. Although not concerned with motion picture accounting specifically, the selected works frame theoretical and methodological concerns germane to its researchers. If humanists think about accounting at all, they are likely to call to mind Max Weber’s influential early-20th-century discussion of double-entry bookkeeping as the epitome of capitalist rationalization. Weber 1978 continues to reward serious examination, but substantially different perspectives are also available. In Hopwood 1974, for example, accounting professor Anthony Hopwood intervened in discussions of managerial accounting by drawing on the organizational sociology of Robert Merton, Philip Selznick, and Alvin Goulder—each of whom described bureaucracies as complex and, in contrast to Weber, often irrational social systems. Hopwood became a leading figure in the boom in accounting research that occurred in the 1990s, a trajectory in which insights from the sociology of institutionalized organizations, Marxism, and Foucault guided historical investigations of accounting. A number of recent articles survey the central figures and debates of this “new accounting history”; Fleischman and Radcliffe 2005 and Napier 2006 provide two of the most readable and comprehensive overviews in addition to Hopwood and Miller 1994, which is a key collection. Drawing on this body of work, Poovey 1996, by a literary critic, offers a feminist appraisal of the double-entry system that will be crucial for anyone concerned with accounting’s participation in a gendered division of labor and the creation of “the economy” as a distinct object of concern. Duke and Coffman 1993 offers start-up advice for those contemplating primary source research on accounting materials. Finally, Previts and Merino 1998 provides a sweeping history of the profession in the United States that will allow researchers to relate developments in motion picture accounting to broader trends.

                          • Duke, Maurice, and Edward N. Coffman. “Writing an Accounting or Business History: Notes Toward a Methodology.” The Accounting Historians Journal 20.2 (1993): 217–235.

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                            Seasoned historians may find this essay rudimentary, but it has the virtue of listing challenges typically encountered in conducting research on accounting practice, suggesting specific types of sources that might be considered (including oral histories), and proposing some practical considerations that might inform a research approach toward these materials.

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                            • Fleischman, Richard K., and Vaughan S. Radcliffe. “The Roaring Nineties: Accounting History Comes of Age.” The Accounting Historians Journal 32.1 (2005): 61–109.

                              DOI: 10.2307/40698310Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                              This essay provides a comprehensive review of the new accounting history. Traditional, Marxist, and Foucaultian strands of historiography are identified and major contributions and debates discussed.

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                              • Hopwood, Anthony G. Accounting and Human Behaviour. London: Haymarket, 1974.

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                                Hopwood argues that managerial accounting should be considered not simply as a technical matter but also from the point of view of organizational behavior. To illustrate, he shows why some efforts to modify behavior through budgeting fail.

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                                • Hopwood, Anthony G., and Peter Miller, eds. Accounting as Social and Institutional Practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

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                                  This landmark collection of Foucaultian accounting studies is mostly concerned with Britain and the United States. Miller’s introduction reviews the development of the approach and its sociological and theoretical intertexts. His essay with Ted O’Leary, “Governing the Calculable Person,” on the development of standard costing, holds particular relevance to motion pictures.

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                                  • Napier, Christopher J. “Accounts of Change: 30 Years of Historical Accounting Research.” Accounting, Organizations and Society 31.4–5 (2006): 445–507.

                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.aos.2005.12.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    This essay reviews research on accounting history published in Accounting, Organizations and Society from 1976 (the year of its founding) to 2006. Napier discusses how training in the profession has and has not dealt with the problem of change, attends to the relationship between developments in accounting history and economics and social science, and surveys the central themes and problems of the new accounting history.

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                                    • Poovey, Mary. “Accommodating Merchants: Accounting, Civility, and the Natural Laws of Gender.” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 8.3 (1996): 1–20.

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                                      Drawn in part from the author’s monumental History of the Modern Fact (1998), this essay describes how, in early modern England, the system of double-entry bookkeeping led to the institutionalization of “the market” as a “law-abiding” domain and required the exclusion of women “from the ranks of those eligible to produce knowledge about its transactions” (p. 2).

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                                      • Previts, Gary John, and Barbara Dubis Merino. A History of Accountancy in the United States: The Cultural Significance of Accounting. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1998.

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                                        Previts and Merino survey the history of their profession in the United States from 1492 to 1995. They attend to accounting techniques and theory, formal education and professional certification, the changing regulatory environment, and the many uses to which accounting has been put.

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                                        • Weber, Max. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.

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                                          Volume 1, chapter 2, sections 10 and 11, pages 86–99 introduce Weber’s seminal discussion of accounting as a technical instrument for rationalizing operations within the business enterprise. Weber emphasizes the importance of calculability as a basis for capital accounting and notes that it has social as opposed to strictly economic causes.

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                                          Standards

                                          Standards set by various bodies, most of them non- or quasi-governmental, regulate the practice of professional accounting. Financial accounting for motion picture industries has been an area of abiding regulatory concern, and changes to standards have often responded to changes in the structure of the industry as well as the evolution of General Accepted Accounting Practice (GAAP). As such, standards illuminate changes and controversies in addition to establishing rules. In the United States, the major standards-setting bodies are the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants,(AICPA) established in 1887 as the American Association of Public Accountants, and the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), a private nonprofit organization established in 1973 to develop GAAP (see Accounting Standards Codification). In the wake of major corporate accounting scandals, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 established the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to regulate firms that audit public companies. Many countries in which films are made have their own standards-setting bodies, although, as Back 2002 indicates, film businesses outside the United States may adopt US standards, and there is a trend toward internationalization. Replacing the International Accounting Standards Committee in 2001, the independent not-for-profit International Accounting Standards Board develops and promotes International Financial Reporting Standards; since 2002 it has worked with the FASB to converge standards. Standards development typically involves a lengthy period of review and discussion, occurring through bulletins, draft statements, special task force reports, and the like. The AICPA organ, the Journal of Accountancy, and other major journals publish summaries and discussions of changes. This section includes the major standards summarized by Vogel 2011 (cited under General Overviews) and adds a few sources that might suggest new directions for interested researchers. First, although Vogel 2011 treats American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Committee on the Entertainment Industries 1973 as the starting point for standards in this area, the organization issued guidance as early as 1920 (American Institute of Accountants, Library and Bureau of Information 1920). Second, documents such as Financial Accounting Standards Board, Emerging Issues Task Force 1996, which produced no concrete standards revision, illuminate how industrial change might confound standards development. Finally, the relevant International Accounting Standard 38: Intangible Assets (International Accounting Standards Board 2004) has been included.

                                          • Accounting Standards Codification.

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                                            In 2009 this online subscription service operated by the Financial Accounting Standards Board superseded prior standards and introduced a new organization for accounting regulation. (Note: The service may be available as part of an aggregation through other providers).

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                                            • American Institute of Accountants, Library and Bureau of Information. “Special Bulletin No. 5.” Oxford: University of Mississippi, 1920 (September). Available online from University of Mississippi Library Accounting Collection.

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                                              The third of three special bulletins addressing motion picture accounting issued by the American Institute of Accountants (ancestor to the AICPA) in 1920. The first two deal with depreciating tangible property; this one addresses the perennial issue of film depreciation (see Amortization), as well the question of when theatrical revenues should be recognized and whether film exchanges (distributors) should keep books on a cost or accrual basis.

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                                              • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and Accounting Standards Executive Committee. “Statement of Position 00–2. Accounting by Producers or Distributors of Films.” New York: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 2000.

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                                                The aims and effects of this standard are summarized in numerous places, but researchers will find that it repays examination. Although the standard defines “film” as including television programs, it also excludes a number of issues arising from overlapping standards in related industries such as those discussed in Issue No. 96–6 (Financial Accounting Standards Board, Emerging Issues Task Force 1996). Includes a section describing the rationale for changes, an appendix with examples, and a glossary of terms.

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                                                • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and Committee on the Entertainment Industries. Accounting for Motion Picture Films. New York: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 1973.

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                                                  This major statement of practice aimed to resolve a number of controversial issues, including when revenue from licensing films to television should be recognized, which film inventories could be considered current assets, and how noncurrent film assets could be amortized. These guidelines were updated by AICPA Statement of Position 79–4 and later formalized by FASB Statement No. 53.

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                                                  • Back, Terry. “Scripting the Numbers.” Accountancy 130 (2002): 38–39.

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                                                    This brief report on the challenges of film and television accounting in Great Britain notes that no industry Statement of Recommended Practice exists. Consequently, many companies borrow from the US Statement of Position 00–2.

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                                                    • Financial Accounting Standards Board. “Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 53: Financial Reporting by Producers and Distributors of Motion Picture Films.” Norwalk, CT: Financial Accounting Standards Board, 1981.

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                                                      “Extracting the specialized accounting and reporting principles” (p. 4) from prior AICPA statements, this standard defines when licensing revenue should be recognized, how film costs shall be amortized, and a number of other issues. Includes a glossary and appendices giving the history of the standard and illustrating revenue-recognition and the individual-film-forecast computation method.

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                                                      • Financial Accounting Standards Board, Emerging Issues Task Force. “Issue No. 96–6.” Norwalk, CT: Financial Accounting Standards Board, 1996.

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                                                        The Emerging Issues Task Force discusses a conflict arising from different standards used to account film and software production costs by the motion picture and the entertainment and education software industries. The Securities and Exchange Commission representative asserts that entity’s position on the issue.

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                                                        • International Accounting Standards Board. “International Accounting Standard 38: Intangible Assets.” International Accounting Standards Board, 2004.

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                                                          Summaries and abstracts of this standard are easily findable online, but it is worth examining the complete text as it includes a detailed history of changes to the standard, which was first issued in 1998. IAS 38 defines “intangible asset,” a category that may include motion picture films and that notably excludes “goodwill,” as well as permissible approaches to the amortization of intangibles (see Amortization).

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                                                          • Levine, Marc H., and Joel G. Siegel. “Accounting Changes for the Film Industry.” CPA Journal 71 (2001): 32–38.

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                                                            A helpful, concise summary of the changes required by Statement of Position 00–2.

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                                                            Managerial Accounting

                                                            Managerial or cost accounting, as distinct from financial accounting, is not concerned with reporting profit or loss but rather aims to assist managers in allocating resources and planning for the future. As Hopwood 1974 (cited under Accounting as Social Practice) observes, its favorite technique—budgeting—is also used to control behavior within organizations, with mixed success. In the 20th century, the increasingly pervasive technique of “standard costing” enabled management to develop budgets in relationship to expectations of normal costs. Miller and O’Leary explain (in Hopwood and Miller 1994, cited under Accounting as Social Practice) that this highly scalable technique manages conduct within organizations by measuring variance from anticipated cost; thus even when the budget is not met, management derives information useful to directing the activities of the organization. Given the enthusiasm with which US filmmakers have, since the 1910s, employed standard costing, it is remarkable how little serious work has been done on its role in motion picture production. Although Staiger 1979 clearly identified the importance of budgeting to the early US film industry, and some work, such as Cooper 2010, has developed this line of argument, most histories of the industry continue to treat managerial accounting as a side note, if they mention it at all. Yet studio budgeting was, in Hollywood’s first decade, a topic of interest for fans as well as accountants, as evidenced by Davis 1917 and Holman 1920, respectively. For filmmakers, an extensive how-to literature exists, which, in the United States at least, notably advises even small-budget independent productions to employ the methods developed by and for large industrial concerns (Singleton, et al. 1996). Auditing and apportionment of overhead—the assignment of general operating costs to the budgets of particular productions—have been perennial concerns of managerial accounting in Hollywood (see General Overviews and Standards). Barkhausen 1974 provides a rare and illuminating point of comparison with the German industry of the Third Reich.

                                                            • Barkhausen, Hans. “Footnote to the History of Riefenstahl’s ‘Olympia.’” Film Quarterly 28 (1974): 8–12.

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                                                              Barkhausen is primarily concerned with exposing contracts, memos, and audit reports disproving director Leni Riefenstahl’s claim that her own company produced her two 1936 Olympics films independently from the German government. The article also illuminates routine film budgeting and auditing practices of the Third Reich.

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                                                              • Cooper, Mark Garrett. Universal Women: Filmmaking and Institutional Change in Early Hollywood. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2010.

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                                                                Although not primarily concerned with managerial accounting, Cooper, particularly in chapter 2, considers how this technique informed Universal’s production process and its gendered division of the labor in the 1910s.

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                                                                • Davis, H. O. “A Kitchner Among Cameras.” Photoplay (May 1917): 129–131, 147, 168.

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                                                                  Davis, then general manager of Universal’s West Coast studio, describes its production process to fan magazine readers. He emphasizes the efficiency achieved by detailed budgeting.

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                                                                  • Holman, William S. “Cost Accounting for the Motion Picture Industry.” Journal of Accountancy 30 (1920): 420–432.

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                                                                    Writing for other accountants, Holman describes costs typically incurred by film production, how they are reported by various studio departments, and how studio cost accounting systems are structured. He discusses types of overhead and ways of accounting them and concludes with a brief description of income tax problems arising from “States Rights” sales and advance licensing to distributors.

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                                                                    • Lasser, J. K. Handbook of Cost Accounting Methods. New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1949.

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                                                                      An introduction to the theory and practice of cost accounting by and for accountants, this volume includes brief essays dealing with problems particular to a wide range of industries. Pathé controller and CPA T. H. Beirce surveys cost accounting for motion pictures.

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                                                                      • Singleton, Ralph Stuart, Alain Silver, and Robert Koster. Film Budgeting, or, How Much Will It Cost to Shoot Your Movie? Los Angeles: Lone Eagle, 1996.

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                                                                        This how-to-guide provides a department-by-department, line-by-line explanation of a feature film budget, using figures from The Conversation (directed by Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) as an example.

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                                                                        • Staiger, Janet. “Dividing Labor for Production Control: Thomas Ince and the Rise of the Studio System.” Cinema Journal 18 (1979): 16–25.

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                                                                          In this pioneering work, film historian Staiger explains that by 1913 Ince’s studio had developed what is now known as the continuity script and was using it to help establish budgets and rationalize the work of film production.

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                                                                          Amortization

                                                                          By 1920, motion picture accountants had adopted a unique depreciation method. As New York accountant Max Prager explains in Prager 1921, the studio’s inventory of completed films presented an accounting puzzle (see also Fielding 1992, cited under Historical Overviews). Unlike tangible goods, films do not change hands; they are licensed to exhibitors and performed for audiences. Moreover, individual titles quickly exhaust their ability to generate significant revenue and yet represent considerable sunk cost. Straight-line depreciation, the simplest method, would typically amortize a decline in a tangible’s assets value over its useful life. Film accountants reasoned that the “life” of a film should not be measured in terms of the tangible film negative but rather in terms of the interest the content could be expected to hold for an audience. Although it was not possible to know how much revenue any given title would generate in the foreseeable future, it was possible to estimate the portion of total revenue a film might bring in over a particular period of time. In the early years, it was a safe bet that films would earn most of their income in the first month or two of release and do almost no business after a year. Film costs could be amortized according to this pattern. Now known as the “income forecast method” (see Vogel 2011, cited under General Overviews and also Standards), this procedure became increasingly complex over time. Avery 1942 provides a window on 1930s methods, and Greenwald 1952 compares the 1950s approaches of major studios. Because tax avoidance (see Tax Avoidance and Incentives) often drives the innovation of amortization methods, tax law provides evidence of their history. ABC Rentals of San Antonio offers an entry point to that body of literature.

                                                                          • ABC Rentals of San Antonio, Inc.; David R. Peters; Diana L. Peters; John P. Parsons; Melba R. Parsons, Petitioners-Appellants v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Respondent-Appellee. Grauel Enterprises, Inc., Amicus Curiae. 142F.3d 1200 U.S. 10th Cir., 1998.

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                                                                            At issue in this case was whether a San Antonio rent-to-own company lawfully used the income forecast method to depreciate tangible assets. The US Tax Court initially found that it had not, but the decision was reversed on appeal. The decision provides a history of tax regulations bearing on the income forecast method and their legal interpretation by the courts.

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                                                                            • Avery, Harold G. “Accounting for Intangible Assets.” The Accounting Review 17 (1942): 354–363.

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                                                                              Comparative study of trends in depreciating intangible assets in major industries 1929 to 1939. Motion pictures are included as one of the industrial groups. The article concludes that the tendency across industries is to write down assets to a “nominal figure” less than $10 USD.

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                                                                              • Greenwald, William I. “Amortization Schedules for Motion Pictures.” The Accounting Review 27 (1952): 339–343.

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                                                                                Greenwald, an instructor at City College, New York, describes the depreciation methods and variety of schedules in use by US studios at the time. He compares amortization rates at Loew’s, Paramount, Warner Bros., Twentieth-Century Fox, R.K.O., Columbia, and Universal in 1935, 1940, and 1946 and concludes that rates have generally been accelerated.

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                                                                                • Hoyt, Eric. Hollywood Vault: Film Libraries Before Home Video. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014.

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                                                                                  Informed by recent work in media industry studies and cultural economics, Hoyt describes how films have been valued and found markets after being fully depreciated. Noting that this process precedes the growth ancillary markets on television and home video, Hoyt refutes the common argument that technological development is primarily responsible for giving old films new economic life.

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                                                                                  • Prager, Max E. “Some Accounting Problems of the Motion Picture Industry.” Administration: The Journal of Business and Analysis and Control 2 (1921): 70–73.

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                                                                                    Explains the need for and development of a procedure for depreciating films based on anticipated future earnings, the ancestor of the income forecast method. The need arises from industrial production and distribution of a product that has no value apart from “the very changeable fancy of the public” (p. 72).

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                                                                                    Profit Participation

                                                                                    Discussions of Hollywood’s “creative accounting” in popular media often focus on the phenomenon of films that are very successful at the box office but show no net profit on the books. The 1990 judgment in Art Buchwald, et al. v. Paramount Pictures, Corporation, followed by a highly publicized 1994 dispute between Paramount and Forest Gump screenwriter Winston Groom, drew considerable attention to this phenomenon and inspired proportional scholarly interest. In the US film industry “net profit” is a contractually defined term. Certain creative personnel employed in film production may have contracts entitling them to a portion of the net profits for a film (see Vogel 2011 and Daniels, et al. 2006, both cited under General Overviews). As Bibicoff 1991 demonstrates, such contracts vary from studio to studio and specify how profits are calculated; they detail, for instance, the types of expenses that can be deducted from gross revenue in calculating the net profit (see also Cones 1997, cited under Distribution and Exhibition). While accounting may indeed be “creative” in finding ways legally to compute these expenses and while fraudulent accounting does occur, the main source of complaint has to do with the terms of the contract rather than how the numbers are run. The Buchwald ruling, for example, did not indict the auditing but rather found the form of the contract “unconscionable.” Lawyers who study contracts thus provide a salutary counterpoint to the sensationalized version of the Buchwald case offered by O’Donnell and McDougal 1992; Goldberg 1997 and Connors 1997 offer contrasting appraisals. The distinctive features of the participation contract have also attracted the attention of cultural economists (e.g., Caves 2003). Cheatham, et al. 1996 reviews the controversy over participation from the viewpoint of accepted accounting conventions. Weinstein 1998 supplements contract analysis with a business history approach, reminding us that the form of the contract has evolved with the industry. To anchor that point, finally, Barnett 2008 provides a case study demonstrating how profit participations were structured in the 1920s.

                                                                                    • Barnett, Vincent L. “The Novelist as Hollywood Star: Author Royalties and Studio Income in the 1920s.” Film History 20 (2008): 281–293.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.2979/FIL.2008.20.3.281Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      Using archival resources, Barnett provides a detailed review of the motion picture royalties received by celebrity novelist Elinor Glyn in the 1920s and places them in context. Glyn’s royalties included both net and gross profit participations at MGM and Paramount.

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                                                                                      • Bibicoff, Hillary. “Net Profit Participations in the Motion Picture Industry.” Loyola Entertainment Law Journal 11 (1991): 23.

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                                                                                        To show how the structure of the contract affects net profit participation, Bibicoff compares three standard contracts for a single hypothetical case: a Twentieth Century Fox, Inc. contract; a Warner Bros., Inc. contract; and the “profit participation contract unsuccessfully proposed by the Screen Actors Guild in its 1980 negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.” A copy of the latter is included as an appendix.

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                                                                                        • Caves, Richard E. “Contracts Between Art and Commerce.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 17.2 (2003): 73–84.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1257/089533003765888430Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          A highly condensed version of Caves’ cultural economics classic Creative Industries (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), this article limns types of contractual relationships characteristic of culture industries. Caves discusses accounting of net profit as a major complication for motion picture contracts.

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                                                                                          • Cheatham, Carole, Dorothy A. Davis, and Leo R. Cheatham. “Hollywood Profits: Gone with the Wind?” CPA Journal 66 (1996): 32.

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                                                                                            Accounting professors Carole Cheatham, and Davis with professor of finance Leo Cheatham provide a concise overview of practices leading to recent controversies over profit participation and survey recent regulatory and legal actions. They call for reform of industry practices, including renewed attention to GAAP.

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                                                                                            • Connors, Tim. “Beleaguered Accounting: Should the Film Industry Abandon its Net Profits Formula?” Southern California Law Review 70 (1997): 841–919.

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                                                                                              This extensive law review article provides a detailed survey of the industrial context, standard contractual definitions of net profit, explanations for why this standard formula exists, the legal vulnerabilities and economic disadvantages of net participation contracts, and alternate formulae for profit participation. Connors concludes that the then-current net profits formula is obsolete and advocates for the “comparison pool formula” as an alternative.

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                                                                                              • Goldberg, Victor P. “The Net Profits Puzzle.” Columbia Law Review 97 (1997): 524.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.2307/1123369Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Goldberg explains why net profit participation agreements persist despite the popular perception that successful films show no net profit. The article describes the history and rationale of net profit participation contracts and why various parties would be motivated to agree to their terms.

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                                                                                                • O’Donnell, Pierce, and Dennis McDougal. Fatal Subtraction: How Hollywood Really Does Business. The Inside Story of Buchwald V. Paramount. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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                                                                                                  This breathless tell-all book by Buchwald attorney O’Donnell and Los Angeles Times reporter McDougal provides a blow-by-blow account of the case, with as much attention to the orchestration of publicity decrying Hollywood’s “creative accounting” as to legal strategy and process.

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                                                                                                  • Weinstein, Mark. “Profit-Sharing Contracts in Hollywood: Evolution and Analysis.” Journal of Legal Studies 27 (1998): 67.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1086/468014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Business and law professor Weinstein details the long evolution of the net participation contract from the mid-1920s and emphasizes that the increased use and change in form of such contracts after 1948 should be explained by changes in the economics of the industry, including increased independent production. He suggests that standard economic models for contractual behavior have limited utility for explaining this case.

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                                                                                                    Distribution and Exhibition

                                                                                                    This section selects documents specifically concerned with accounting distribution and exhibition. As with the income forecast method and the contractual definition of net profit, another peculiarity of motion picture accounting arises here. According to GAAP, an enterprise should either book income and expenses when billed (accrual accounting) or revenue when collected and costs when incurred (cash accounting). As Daniels, et al. 2006 (cited under General Overviews; pp. 45–48) explain, the US film industry uniquely combines these methods, with distributors using accrual methods in their own financial statements to describe their relationship with exhibitors and cost accounting to describe their relationship with producers. This is one aspect of the interesting and complex issue of how to determine when to recognize revenue from motion pictures, which are produced once but licensed many times over a period of months or years. As Vogel 2011 (cited under General Overviews) explains in Section 5.2, normalizing revenue recognition has been a major focus for standards makers (see Standards). In addition to the question of when revenue should be recognized, the various fees and expenses collected by distributors are a source of controversy, although, again, this is as much a contractual issue as a bookkeeping problem (see Cones 1997 and, for an historical perspective, Schay 1920). The accounting systems of motion picture theaters are distinctive enough to merit specific inclusion in how-to manuals for accountants: Newman 1956 and Rickman 1964 offer two readily available examples (see also Kennedy 1927, cited under Historical Overviews). Golovskoy 1986 provides a starting point for investigation of Soviet practices of the 1970s. Finally, Harper 2004 provides a British example demonstrating how theater accounting allows managers and historians to perform a granular analysis of audience taste.

                                                                                                    • Cones, John W. The Feature Film Distribution Deal: A Critical Analysis of the Single Most Important Film Industry Agreement. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997.

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                                                                                                      Entertainment attorney Cones outlines the types of distribution contracts and explains in detail their terms. Cones argues that such contracts, and the accounting practices that support them, are unethical when not illegal and deliberately work to exclude net profit participation. Includes sample distribution contracts as appendices.

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                                                                                                      • Harper, Sue. “A Lower Middle-Class Taste-Community in the 1930s: Admissions Figures at the Regent Cinema, Portsmouth, UK.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television 24.4 (2004): 565–587.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1080/0143968042000293874Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        The serendipitous discovery of an old theater ledger allows Harper to reconstruct the process whereby theater managers interpreted admissions figures as indicators of audience taste and planned future programming accordingly. A transcription of the ledger is included as an appendix. This is the first of two articles; the second, published in a subsequent issue of the same journal, deals with the 1940s.

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                                                                                                        • Golovskoy, Valerij Semenovič. Behind the Soviet Screen: The Motion-Picture Industry in the USSR, 1972–1982. Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, 1986.

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                                                                                                          This volume’s overview of Soviet distribution and exhibition in the 1970s provides basic information about how the industry tracked and used box-office returns, including a description of the computer model used to assess film quality as prediction of ticket sales.

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                                                                                                          • Newman, Martin N. “Motion Picture Theaters (Chain).” In Encyclopedia of Accounting Systems. Edited by Robert I. Williams and Lillian Doris, 1317–1352. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1956.

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                                                                                                            CPA and Century Circuit treasurer provides a detailed and practical overview of all aspects of theater chain accounting, including many sample forms and reports.

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                                                                                                            • Rickman, Samuel D. “Accounting for Motion Picture Theater Chains.” In J. K. Lasser’s Handbook of Accounting Methods. 3d ed. Edited by J. K. Lasser Institute, 664–672. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand, 1964.

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                                                                                                              Former Universal and Paramount-Publix CPA provides an overview of theater chain accounting, with an emphasis on internal controls for cash receipts. The volume also includes a brief, but not particularly illuminating, discussion of accounting for drive-in theaters by John L. Reeves.

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                                                                                                              • Schay, E. Manual of Goldwyn Branch Operations. New York: E. Schay, 1920.

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                                                                                                                Written before Goldwyn pictures became part of MGM in 1924, Schay’s manual details how distribution and exhibition contracts should be written and how reporting should happen. The manual begins with the motto “System + Cooperation = Efficiency.”

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                                                                                                                Tax Avoidance and Incentives

                                                                                                                Financial accounting has tax implications. Accordingly, several sections of this bibliography provide information about how accounting systems support taxation schemes and vice versa (see especially Standards and Amortization). This section focuses on two, closely related tax issues of abiding concern for motion picture accountants. Reductions in tax obligations intended by policymakers are generally called credits or incentives, while unintended reductions, even when not technically illegal, use the language of avoidance, shelter, loophole, or dodge. In both cases, accounting procedure interacts complexly with legal and economic decisions. The extensive recent literature on “cultural economics” is therefore relevant (see, e.g., Caves 2003 cited under Profit Participation), although to survey it would exceed this bibliography’s purview. Drawing on this approach, Grant and Wood 2004 provides a readable survey of trade issues, including the role of taxation. Cultural economists typically ask whether policies like tax credits achieve their stated aims of protecting national industry and/or national culture. It would be equally interesting to ask: How have accounting conventions helped to organize relations among nation-states, local governments, media corporations, creative workers, and audiences? Although this is not precisely its question, Hoyt 2010 suggests that an investigation of accounting’s role in mediating relations among producers, audiences, and the state would produce informative results. Other citations in this section indicate other opportunities for work along these lines. Taubman 1956 points to a voluminous legal literature around taxation while touching on accounting problems. KPMG and Wright, et al. 2009 concretely map different production incentive schemes worldwide. Wells and Ross 2013 reintroduces the issue of intangible assets by proposing that state incentives generate unaccounted “goodwill.”

                                                                                                                • Grant, Peter S., and Chris Wood. Blockbusters and Trade Wars: Popular Culture in a Globalized World. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre, 2004.

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                                                                                                                  Informed by “cultural economics,” attorney Grant and professional writer Wood provide a substantive yet readable analysis of the regulatory and economic dynamics of the global culture industries. Canadian film production and broadcasting are a focus, but the scope is historically and geographically broad. The authors devote significant attention to tax incentives.

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                                                                                                                  • Hoyt, Eric. “Hollywood and the Income Tax, 1929–1955.” Film History 22 (2010): 5–21.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2979/FIL.2010.22.1.5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Focusing on efforts by Hollywood talent to reduce their personal tax obligations from 1929 to 1955, Hoyt shows how the very definition of show business was at issue in disagreements about deductions in the 1930s, how filmmakers lent their talent to supporting expansion of income tax during WWII, and how they exploited various loopholes in the income tax scheme after the war. The essay concludes by describing how Ronald Reagan’s experience as an actor lead to his zeal for tax cuts.

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                                                                                                                    • KPMG. Film Financing and Television Programming: A Taxation Guide. 6th ed. Amsterdam: KPMG, 2012.

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                                                                                                                      Now it is sixth edition, this guide by accounting and consulting behemoth KPMG reviews taxation rules and incentives affecting film and television production worldwide.

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                                                                                                                      • Taubman, Joseph. “Motion Picture Co-Production Deals and Theatrical Business Organization.” Tax Law Review 11 (1956): 113–136.

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                                                                                                                        Tax lawyer Taubman discusses issues arising from the increasingly common (in 1956) coproduction form of business organization (film historians will know this as the rise of the “package-unit” system). He provides an overview of motion picture distribution, independent production, amortization, and television licensing, with particular reference to tax case law. He maintains that coproductions are joint ventures while noting that the law had yet to decide what type of partnership they were.

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                                                                                                                        • Wells, Steve, and Mark Ross. “‘One for the Money, Two for the Show . . .’ Take Two.” Journal of State Taxation 31.3 (2013): 33–36, 46–47.

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                                                                                                                          In the second of two articles, accounting professors Wells and Ross examine arguments for and against state tax breaks to incentivize film production, arguing that economic and policy literature on this issue often fails to reckon with the intangible value of “goodwill.” The experiences of Michigan, Georgia, and Texas are compared.

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                                                                                                                          • Wright, Kathleen K., Stewart S. Karlinsky, and Kim A. Tarantino. “Lord of the Rings’ Impact on Federal and State Film Industry Tax Incentives and Their Tax Treatment.” ATA Journal of Legal Tax Research 7 (2009): 57–75.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.2308/jltr.2009.7.1.57Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Writing in a journal of the American Accounting Association, the authors discuss US federal tax incentives for domestic film production including the Income Forecast Method, Super First-Year Depreciation Deduction, and the Domestic Production Activity Deduction (enacted in 2004 to counter perceived incentives to produce abroad). They survey state tax incentive programs, including, as an appendix, a comparative chart.

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                                                                                                                            Accountability

                                                                                                                            Most of the works in this section consider how numbers derived from accounting systems contribute to discourses of “accountability” that promote specific institutional, economic, and/or political objectives. A range of theoretical and methodological approaches are represented. Amernic and Craig 2000 applies quantitative and rhetorical analysis to Walt Disney’s initial letter to stockholders. Govil 2010 and Govil 2013 propose a supplement to media industry studies in demonstrating that numbers discursively “frame” and “perform” India’s film industries; looking at an entirely different period and context, Nornes 2013 makes a similar argument about “Asian cinema.” Caldwell 2008 suggests a direction for future work when it observes that familiarity with budgeting gives media industry executives an ability to describe the linkage between economic and aesthetic values that most of their scholarly contemporaries lack. Wagman 2008 draws on the new accounting history (see Accounting as Social Practice) in an analysis of the consulting report sometimes credited with saving the National Film Board of Canada. Accounting not only helps to organize and regulate the motion picture industry but also is represented by it. Accordingly, this section also includes samples from a body of work generated by accounting historians and allied social scientists that evaluates representations of accountants on screen (Dimnik and Felton 2006; Felton, et al. 2008).

                                                                                                                            • Amernic, Joel H., and Russell J. Craig. “Accountability and Rhetoric During a Crisis: Walt Disney’s 1940 Letter to Stockholders.” The Accounting Historians Journal 27.2 (2000): 49–86.

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                                                                                                                              From a social scientific perspective, Amernic and Craig analyze in detail Disney’s rhetorical use of accounting in his initial letter to stockholders, which followed a year when Walt Disney Productions showed a $1,259,798 loss and sought public investment. The business context is explained, and the letter itself is reproduced in an appendix.

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                                                                                                                              • Caldwell, John Thornton. Production Culture: Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film and Television. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1215/9780822388968Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                Synthesizing a number of trends in the social scientific and humanistic approaches to media industries, Caldwell surveys the interpretive frames contemporary Los Angeles-based film and television professionals use to make sense of their practices. Although this pioneering work in media industry studies does not focus on accountants, it arguably makes a silent appeal for their inclusion (see especially chapter 6).

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                                                                                                                                • Dimnik, Tony, and Sandra Felton. “Accountant Stereotypes in Movies Distributed in North America in the Twentieth Century.” Accounting, Organizations and Society 31.2 (2006): 129–155.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/j.aos.2004.10.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  This essay provides a thorough review of similar literature followed by a factor and cluster analysis that identifies five accountant stereotypes: “Dreamer, Plodder, Eccentric, Hero and Villain” in a filmography of 121 titles (included in Table 1). They find that female and minority accountants have grown more common over time, and characters with professional certifications are more likely to be heroes.

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                                                                                                                                  • Felton, Sandra, Tony Dimnik, and Darlene Bay. “Perceptions of Accountants’ Ethics: Evidence from Their Portrayal in Cinema.” Journal of Business Ethics 83 (2008): 217–232.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-007-9613-zSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    Based on statistical analysis of a sample of 110 Hollywood films with accountant characters released between 1932 and 2000, the authors conclude that professional values, such as technical skill, are much less strongly correlated with ethical behavior among movie accountants than are those associated with personal happiness. This presents a challenge for the accounting profession, which has sought to secure the public perception of ethical conduct through appeals to technical competence.

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                                                                                                                                    • Govil, Nitin. “Size Matters.” BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies 1.2 (2010): 105–109.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/097492761000100202Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Govil argues that beginning in the late 1990s fervid statistical descriptions of the Indian film industry by major international auditing firms and government agencies abetted corporatization by displacing a perception of Indian film industries as disorganized because their bookkeeping was unreliable. In fact, the new numbers do not proliferate in a vacuum but rather extend and replace prior ways of accounting the film business.

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                                                                                                                                      • Govil, Nitin. “Recognizing ‘Industry’.” Cinema Journal 52.3 (2013): 172–176.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1353/cj.2013.0019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Extending Govil 2010, Govil turns to “micro” approaches to enumeration and considers their role in “making up” film industries. His discussion focuses on the constitution of the Indian Stunt Movie Association, which allowed payment in hundies, a type of trade and credit instrument disallowed by the British colonial administration but surviving in informal exchanges.

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                                                                                                                                        • Nornes, Abé Mark. “The Creation and Construction of Asian Cinema Redux.” Film History: An International Journal 25.1 (2013): 175–187.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2979/filmhistory.25.1-2.175Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          Nornes describes an “industrial criticism” that flourished in Japan before 1945 and that employed “data, lists, charts, and maps” to “imagine and construct ‘Asian cinema’” (p. 176). Drawing a connection between this work and increasing interest in Asian cinema after the late 1980s, Nornes calls for further attention to region in film and media studies.

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                                                                                                                                          • Wagman, Ira. “The Woods Gordon Report, Accountability, and the Postwar Reconstruction of the National Film Board of Canada.” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 42.1 (2008): 83–104.

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                                                                                                                                            In response to a 1949 attack on the National Film Board in the Financial Post, government officials commissioned a review by management consulting firm Woods Gordon that is typically seen as saving the board. Wagman counters the prevailing view in arguing that far from simply exonerating the board, the report was crucial both to restructuring its activities and, more broadly, to increasing the importance of accounting “as a medium for communicating values of openness, flexibility, and truth” (p. 86).

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                                                                                                                                            Significant Ledgers

                                                                                                                                            By their nature, modern bookkeeping systems involve multiple representations of the transactions they record, audit, and aggregate over different periods of time. As part of a bookkeeping system, a ledger typically records debits and credits for a given account. According to the conventions of double-entry bookkeeping, every debit should be offset by a credit so that the grand totals in each column match. An enterprise will typically keep several specialized ledgers, as well as a “general ledger” recording assets, liabilities, income, expenses, and equity. All manner of reports, forms, or journals might supply the information recorded in the general ledger, and its balances are used, in turn, to produce financial statements or balance sheets. Examples of all of these types of documents may be found in various archives (see Archives). A series of articles in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television established three highly specialized sample ledgers from the studio era (late 1910s through the early 1960s), as relatively common citations in scholarship on the US film industry. Glancy 1992 and Sedgwick 1995 discuss an MGM ledger, Jewell 1994 and Sedgwick 1994 discuss an RKO ledger, and Glancy 1995 discusses a Warner Bros ledger.

                                                                                                                                            • Glancy, H. Mark. “MGM Film Grosses, 1924–1948: The Eddie Mannix Ledger.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television 12.2 (1992): 127.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1080/01439689200260081Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              In this first in a series of three articles, Glancy provides a detailed analysis of the Mannix ledger, held by the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The ledger itemizes production costs, domestic earnings, foreign earnings, and profit or loss for all MGM titles produced between 1924 and 1962. Selected figures from the ledger are included in appendices.

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                                                                                                                                              • Glancy, H. Mark. “Warner Bros Film Grosses, 1921–51: The William Schaefer Ledger.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television 15.1 (1995): 55.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/01439689500260031Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                In the third article in the series, Glancy provides a detailed analysis of the Schaefer ledger, part of the William Schaefer Collection at the University of Southern California. The ledger provides costs and earnings for individual titles with no profit/loss figures. Figures from the ledger are included in appendices.

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                                                                                                                                                • Jewell, Richard B. “RKO Film Grosses, 1929–1951: The C. J. Tevlin Ledger.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television 14.1 (1994): 37.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/01439689400260031Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  In the second article in the series, Jewell provides a detailed report on a ledger xeroxed from RKO’s now-dispersed archive. Like the Mannix ledger, this ledger itemizes production costs, domestic earnings, foreign earnings, and profit or loss for RKO features. Jewell follows the Glancy’s format of presenting selected information from the ledger in appendices.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Sedgwick, John. “Richard B. Jewell’s RKO Film Grosses, 1929–1951: The C. J. Trevlin Ledger: A Comment.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television 14.1 (1994): 51.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/01439689400260041Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    Economic historian Sedgwick calculates the missing distribution costs and rates of return from the figures reported by Jewell and performs some basic statistical analyses to demonstrate the value of this type of source as a supplement to traditional business history.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Sedgwick, John. “The Warner Ledgers: A Comment.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television 15.1 (1995): 75.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/01439689500260041Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      In this brief comment on Glancy’s article, Sedgwick laments the lack of a “profit” item in the Schaefer ledger and emphasizes the lessons that can be drawn from comparison with the Mannix and Tevlin ledgers.

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