This paper illustrates the power of modern statistical modelling in understanding processes characterised by data that are skewed and have heavy tails. Our particular substantive problem concerns film box-office revenues. We are able to show that traditional modelling techniques based on the Pareto–Levy–Mandelbrot distribution led to what is actually a poorly supported conclusion that these data have infinite variance. This in turn led to the dominant paradigm of the movie business that 'nobody knows anything' and hence that box-office revenues cannot be predicted. Using the Box–Cox power exponential distribution within the generalized additive models for location, scale and shape framework, we are able to model box-office revenues and develop probabilistic statements about revenues.