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Keywords:

  • capabilities;
  • alliances;
  • small firms;
  • large firms;
  • growth

In exploring the downsides of partnering with large firms, extant literature has typically focused on the external perspective and the alliance characteristics of small firms. We argue that jointly considering the internal dimension of firm capability together with the external perspective promises to yield a fuller understanding of the nature and consequences of a small firm's relationships with large partners. We analyze a longitudinal dataset on the alliance activities and growth of small, independent studios in the U.S. motion picture industry during 1990–2010. Our findings indicate that small firms that engage in higher levels of alliance activity with large partners, i.e., the major studios, realize lower growth benefits from their internal capability. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.