Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Weathermakers to the World: Playing Photo Detective


I was browsing the Hollywood 2018 issue of Vanity Fair when I came across the picture (below) of the New Yorker Theater.  It’s featured in an article by James Wolcott about Manhattan movie revival houses of the 1970s.  These theaters were the Netflix of their time, a chance for movie junkies to scratch their itch before the advent of DVDs, cable, and streaming.

Opened in 1914, the New Yorker Theater was located on Broadway between 88th and 89th. 

Now, check the marquee.


The picture playing the evening of the photo was The Matchmaker, produced in 1958, Shirley Booth’s last film.  (Shirley would go on to play Hazel on TV, and The Matchmaker would be adapted for Broadway as Hello, Dolly!)  The second feature shown that evening, The Hoodlum Priest, was shot in 1961.  It’s about a priest who ministers to delinquents (no, not what you were thinking).  I examined the photo with a magnifying glass and can also see “Red Dust” as an upcoming attraction.  “Red Dust” is a Clark Gable movie produced in 1932. 

So, three films, 1932, 1958, and 1961.  My guess is they were all revivals ("TODAY ONLY"), and the photo was—as the caption suggests—taken in the early 1970s.

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Number One Skill of a Successful Entrepreneur

I've now completed about two-thirds of my latest project, a book called A Nation of Entrepreneurs, and have begun to confirm some of my hypotheses about the entrepreneurial experience in America.

For example, if you asked the average American what makes an entrepreneur successful, he might point to the abilities of the entrepreneur himself.  Leadership, brains, grit—that sort of thing.  Let’s call this the Jobian Theory of entrepreneurial success.  It's a perfectly reasonable position:  Smarter, more talented, hard-working people tend to do better in every walk of life, not just entrepreneurial activities.

But then there are those successful entrepreneurs who don’t have many, or in some cases, most of those skills.  I call them “reluctant” or “accidental” or maybe just lucky entrepreneurs, and profile several of them in Nation.  They tend to be minding their own business, making a living, and stumble upon some innovation or novel business model that is so powerful that it appears to carry them to success, despite themselves.

We all know someone like this, someone who we might not trust to order our lunch but who is rich and successful anyway.  Let’s call this the Business Model Theory of entrepreneurial success.

So we’ve got two factors, talent and quality of business model, which seem to determine success.  In the investment world these two elements are sometimes referred to as “jockey and horse,” and inevitably the jockey gets more of the focus and drives more of the investment dollars than the horse.  It’s entrepreneur over idea, so to speak.  I don’t know if this prioritization makes sense, nor am I sure anyone in an industry that only sees returns on about half of their investments knows for sure, but that’s the best current thinking.

My research in Nation suggests, however, that there is a third, related, but perhaps more powerful element of entrepreneurial success than is explained by talent or model, jockey or horse.