5 utterly useless (yet interesting) film industry facts

It’s becoming a bit of tradition the my last blog before Christmas is a collection of fun nuggets.  This year I sought out five set of facts which I initially found interesting, but which I struggle to find any practical use for.

In summary…

  • It’s a provable fact that Tyler Perry is excellent at attracting the ladies
  • The average running time of all British films 2003-13 was 98.4 minutes
  • In the past nine years British films have been getting short (2005 = 106 mins, 2013 = 95 mins).
  • Animations and documentaries are the shortest (87 mins & 89 mins)
  • In 1994 29% of the top films were shot in 2.35 ratio, by 2013 it was 79%
  • 21% of all jobs on UK films were given to people called David, Paul, John, Mark, James, Michael, Chris, Richard, Peter, Simon, Steve, Andrew, Tom, Ben, Nick, Martin or Tim.
  • Mac’s are twice as popular as PC’s among film professionals

1. Which films cause most disagreement between men and women?

Earlier in the year I was studying the difference between how film critics and audience members rate films.  Building on that research I am able to generate a list of the films which had to highest difference between the ratings given by men and those given by women.

It turns out that it’s a provable fact that Tyler Perry is excellent at attracting the ladies.

The films female users rated higher than male users

Of the 100 highest grossing films at the US box office of each year 1994-2013 (2,000 films in total), these films had the largest difference between the rating given by male and female users on IMDb.

#FilmYearMenWomen+ / -
1I Can Do Bad All by Myself20092.96.1-3.2
2Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas20133.16.0-2.9
3The Family That Preys20084.06.8-2.8
4Madea's Big Happy Family20113.36.1-2.8
5Madea's Family Reunion20064.06.5-2.5
6Madea Goes to Jail20093.35.8-2.5
7For Colored Girls20104.87.2-2.4
8Why Did I Get Married?20074.67.0-2.4
9Meet the Browns20083.15.4-2.3
10Diary of a Mad Black Woman20054.86.9-2.1

Bonus useless fact: All 10 of the above movies were distributed by Lionsgate.

The films male users rated higher than female users

Of the 100 highest grossing films at the US box office of each year 1994-2013 (2,000 films in total), these films had the largest difference between the rating given by male and female users on IMDb.

#FilmYearMenWomen+ / -
1Dumb & Dumber19947.46.50.9
2Eyes Wide Shut19997.46.70.7
3Across the Sea of Time19956.76.10.6
4Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan20067.46.80.6
5There's Something About Mary19987.26.60.6
6Observe and Report20095.95.30.6
8Saving Private Ryan19988.68.10.5
10The 40-Year-Old Virgin20057.36.80.5

I have previously studied the films which had the highest gender disparity in UK cinema audiences during 2003-12.  The ‘most male’ films were United 93, V for Vendetta and the first Captain America film, whereas the ‘most female’ films were Penelope, Jane Eyre and Wild Child.

2. What aspect ratio are the most popular films?

By looking at the highest grossing films at the US box office between 1994 and 2013 (2,000 films in total) we can track the rise of the 2.35 aspect ratio.

3. How long are British films?

As someone who dislikes long, bloated movies, I was interested to see what there trend over time were for running time.  The very talented Stav over at Hollyquant.com has already crunched the numbers on Hollywood films (spoiler alert: they are for blockbusters but not overall) so I thought I’d focus on British films.

I used data from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and the BFI, averaging the data when they disagreed on the running time.

The average running time of all British films released between 2003-13 was 98.4 minutes. In the past decade British films were at their longest in 2005 (105.7 minutes) and have been getting shorter ever since (in 2013 it was 94.7 minutes).

Animations and documentaries are the genres with the shortest average running time (86.7 minutes and 89.4 minutes respectively).

Bonus useless fact: IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes have the same running time for films 69.5% of their films. 21.5% were out by between 1 and 5 minutes and the remaining  9.1% were differed by more than 5 minutes.

4. What are the most common names in UK film?

This is particularly useless set of statistics.

The most popular surname of people within on UK films between 2013 and 2013 was Smith.  This matches the most popular name for the UK as a whole.  In fact the first surnames to outperform the UK average are Thomas and Lee.

Most popular surnames of crew on UK films 2003-13

SurnameIndustry RankAll UK RankPeopleCredits

20.5% of all credits in UK films 2003-13 (across all departments) were given to people called David, Paul, John, Mark, James, Michael, Chris, Richard, Peter, Simon, Steve, Andrew, Tom, Ben, Nick, Martin or Tim.

The first exclusively female first name is Sarah at number 27.

 5. Do film professionals use Macs or PCs?

This year I have ran a number of surveys of the film industry.   Whenever people open my emails or fill in a survey I get small snippets of anonymous, useless information.  One such piece of information is what operating system the user is running.

In the wider world, Windows makes up 89.9% of the market but in the film industry it’s just 24.1%.


My main interest with this blog is to shine a light on previously unresearched areas of the film industry so although I’ve tarred today’s stats as “useless” they still fulfill my mission.  If you find any of these stats useful in any way, let me know.  I’d be happy to share the full data and the explore the topic further, if there’s a demand.

Who’s distributing the best films in the UK?

Following on from last week’s look at UK distribution by number of sites I thought I’d research the quality of the films for each distributor.

All of today’s data looks at UK cinema releases between January 2008 and August 2014, inclusive.

In summary…

  • Films distributed by the BFI get the highest ratings by critics
  • The BFI distributed 87 films in UK cinemas between Jan 2008 and Aug 2014
  • UK distributor Park Circus was behind the films rated highest by IMDb users

Critics’ Choice

By looking at the Metacritic score for each film released in the UK during my six and a half year period of study, I was able to build up a chart of the UK distributors who release the films critics love the most.

Highest average critics’ ratings (via MetaScore) by UK distributors, who have distributed at least 10 films in the UK (4th Jan 2008 to 17th August 2014 inclusive)

#DistributorReleasesAve critics' score
2Independent Cinema Office1182
3Park Circus6382
4New Wave4175
5Artificial Eye10274
6Curzon Film World3973

Crowd Pleasers

I also took a look at which distributors were behind the films IMDb users rated the highest.  Unsurprisingly, the same names appear.

If you want to read more about this topic then you may like my previous research on the similarities  and differences between critics and audience ratings

Highest IMDb user ratings by UK distributors, who have distributed at least 10 films in the UK (4th Jan 2008 to 17th August 2014 inclusive)

#DistributorReleasesAve IMDb User Rating
1Park Circus637.8
5Independent Cinema Office117.1
7Arrow Films177.0
8Curzon Film World396.9
10Artificial Eye1026.9
14New Wave416.8

The Big Boys

The biggest movies are invariably financed by one of the major six Hollywood studios.  These studios also distribute their own films in the UK.

Hollywood studio distribution in the UK (4th Jan 2008 to 17th August 2014 inclusive)

DistributorReleasesAve critics' scoreAve IMDb User Rating
20th Century Fox17553.46.36
Sony Pictures14052.66.35
Warner Bros15452.06.52


The data for today’s article was collected from cinemas by Rentrak and provided to the public via the BFI. Many people aren’t aware of how much data is available publicly via the BFI website. For example, you can either buy the data I used today from Rentrak directly (for commercial rates) or use the fragments of data the BFI have permission to share publicly for free, as I did.

I combined 338 individual weekend box office reports to provide the basis of today’s research, containing all 3800 films released over my chosen time period. This was quite a task, so it’s entirely possible the odd error has slipped in. If you spot something awry, please let me know and I’ll fix it.

Which films had the widest UK release?

I have started to study the UK box office figures and over the next few weeks I’m going to share some of what I’ve found in the data.

First up, I took a look at the number of sites films are released in. All of today’s data looks at UK cinema releases between January 2008 and August 2014, inclusive.

In summary…

  • The UK site with the most screens is the Cineworld Valley Centertainment in Sheffield with 20
  • Universal released the largest number of films in UK cinemas,  2008-14
  • Warner Bros. distributed 45% of the top 20 films with the widest release
  • ‘How To Train Your Dragon 2′ has widest release out of all films which didn’t reach #1 at the UK box office
  • ‘Frozen’ was screened in 81% of UK cinemas
  • There were 698 films released in the UK in 2013

What is a cinema site?

A ‘site’ is an individual cinema premises, and a single site may contain many screens (20, in the case of the Cineworld Valley Centertainment in Sheffield).  In 2013 there were 756 sites in the UK, 295 of which (39%) were multiplex.

Although there are a large number of films released in the UK (698 in 2013), it’s only major Hollywood blockbusters that can secure a wide release. It costs money to release and promote a film and so the wider the release, the deeper the distributor’s pockets need to be.

Which films had the widest UK release?

The table of UK films with the widest release is dominated by Warner Bros, which has nine out of the top 20 films.

UK cinema releases, by largest number of sites (4th Jan 2008 to 17th August 2014 inclusive)

Film DistributorRelease dateSites% of sites

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Warner Bros02/11/201260178%
2. Les MiserablesUniversal30/11/201259978%
3. The Dark Knight RisesWarner Bros08/06/201259477%
4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugWarner Bros27/09/201359479%
5. SkyfallSony Pictures14/09/201259377%
6. How to Train Your Dragon 220th Century Fox04/04/201458878%*
7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceWarner Bros10/07/200958681%
8. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Part 2Warner Bros10/06/201158278%
9. FrozenDisney10/09/201058181%
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1Warner Bros05/11/201058181%
11. Man Of SteelWarner Bros19/04/201357576%
12. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes20th Century Fox25/04/201457476%*
13. InterstellarWarner Bros15/08/201457476%*
14. Monsters UniversityDisney17/05/201357376%
15. GravityWarner Bros23/08/201357176%
16. BoltDisney06/02/200957079%
17. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger TidesDisney06/05/201156976%
18. Toy Story 3DDisney25/09/200956979%
19. Life of Pi20th Century Fox09/11/201256674%
20. Gone Girl20th Century Fox11/07/201456374%*
21. Guardians of the GalaxyDisney09/05/201456174%*
22. Despicable Me 2Universal03/05/201356074%
23. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2eOne Films05/10/201255973%
24. Rio 220th Century Fox17/01/201455874%*
25. Iron Man 3Disney15/03/201355874%

The “% of sites” column shows the percentage of sites in the UK which screened that film.  The number of UK sites fluctuates slightly year-by-year, from 727 in 2007 to 756 in 2013. *The number of cinemas sites in 2014 has not been released so for those I used the 2013 figure.

The widest film release for each distributor

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The most employed women in the British film industry

Last week I looked at the most employed people in the UK film industry.  This week I thought I would merge this approach with a topic I have written a lot about previously, namely gender.

I took a look at the women who have the most credits over the last 10 years across all UK films budgeted over £500k. In summary…

  • 11% of the people who have directed two or more UK films 2003-13 are women
  • Women are far better represented in producing than in writing and directing
  • 25 of the top 104 UK producers are women
  • Novelist J.K. Rowling is the woman with the most number of writing credits in UK film 2003-13


Just 11% of the people who have directed two or more UK films 2003-13 are women.

# female directors# all directorsNameCredits
17Mary McGuckian5
234Gurinder Chadha3
234Debbie Isitt3
234Sally Potter3
234Penny Woolcock3
234Andrea Arnold3
756Mairi Fraser Sutherland2
756Joan Carr-Wiggin2
756Vicky Jewson2
756Deepa Mehta2
756Inés París2
756Isabel Coixet2


Women are far better represented in producing than in writing and directing.

25 of the top 104 UK producers are women (i.e. those who have produced at least 11 UK feature films 2003-13).

# female producers# all producersNameCredits
12Tessa Ross39
211Liza Chasin24
313Christine Langan23
313Carola Ash23
525Charlotte Walls19
632Debra Hayward18
632Julia Blackman18
632Sam Taylor18
632Gillian Berrie18
1043Linda James16
1145Zorana Piggott15
1145Rosa Romero15
1360Lizzie Francke13
1360Liza Marshall13
1360Gail Egan13
1360Katherine Butler13


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The most employed people in the British film industry

In the past I’ve shown how only one in five British filmmakers who have made a feature film manage to make a second film.  This figure came up in conversation last week and it naturally led to the question “So who is making all the UK films?”

I took a look at who has the most credits over the last 10 years across all UK films budgeted over £500k.  In summary…

  • Michael Winterbottom has directed the most UK films over £500k from 2003-13
  • Over the course of his career, ex-head of BBC Films David M Thompson has 157 producer credits
  • 20 people account for 40% of all cinematography credits on UK films over £500k from 2003-13
  • Pete Pedrero is the most-credited stunt performer/co-ordinator on UK films from 2003-13


There are 218 people who have a directing credit on a UK film over £500k made from 2003-13, with an average of 2.1 credits each.

RankNameDirector Credits
1Michael Winterbottom12
2Robbie Moffat9
3Ken Loach7
4Tim Burton6
4Oliver Parker6
4Stephen Frears6
7Ridley Scott5
7Nick Love5
7Mary McGuckian5
7Danny Boyle5
7Jag Mundhra5
7Simon Fellows5
7Mat Whitecross5


David M. Thompson leads the field, largely due to his Executive Producer credits from being Head of BBC Films (1997 to 2007).

RankNameProducer Credits
1David M. Thompson40
2Tessa Ross37
2Steve Christian37
4Tim Bevan33
4Eric Fellner33
6Paul Trijbits28
7Nigel Thomas26
7François Ivernel26
9Norman Merry25
9Cameron McCracken25


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Are British filmmakers a load of drama queens?

Today’s research started out as a simple investigation into what percentage of UK films are dramas but quickly descended into exploring the meaning of genre.

In the distribution world it’s often said that “drama is not a genre”.  This means that most genres provide the audience with a clearly defined expectation of what the film will be before they see it.  However, saying that a film is a drama doesn’t give us anything to go on when assessing what it may involve. Most dramas are either star-driven or ‘execution dependent’ (i.e. they have to be good and get great reviews to have any hope of attracting an audience).

Despite this, a huge number of the films we make in Britain are dramas.  I’ve written before about why this might be, so I won’t go into detail.  Suffice it to say I feel it comes down to a combination of our literary past, our cash-strapped present and our semi-European disdain for commerciality.  I am not saying that it’s good or bad, but simply noting our tastes as a filmmaking nation.

I decided to drill into this drama obsession a little deeper and it proved trickier than I expected.  In summary…

  • 18.5% of the films made in the UK from 2011-13 were dramas
  • Dramas account for just 9.8% of the total amount spent on UK films
  • 12.2% of the UK films in cinemas are dramas
  • But they account for just 0.5% of the box office gross for UK films
  • The average budget for a UK drama film between 2011-13 was £3.1 million
  • The average gross for UK drama films 2011-13 was £380,000 – just 12% of the average budget

What genre do UK filmmakers make most often?

Drama is the most popular fictional genre for UK filmmakers. According to the BFI’s Statistical Yearbook, 18.5% of the films made in the UK 2011-13 were dramas.

So do we spend most of our budgets on dramas?

Not at all.  When we overlay the amount of money spent on film budgets over the same period we can see that dramas account for just 9.8% of the total amount spent on UK films.

In fact, the average budget for a UK drama film was £3.1 million.

Do UK audiences like dramas as much as UK filmmakers?

Read more »

What are the highest grossing low-budget British films?

I spent the weekend at the first of twelve sessions for the Micro-Budget Mentor scheme that I’m running with producer James Cotton.  We had a lecture theatre full of keen micro-budget filmmakers and I spoke about at the current state of low and micro-budget filmmaking in the UK.  In order to prepare, I looked in detail at all the data I could find on UK films budgeted under £1 million.

The core of today’s blog article is the combination of data I purchased from Rentrak, new data the BFI gave to me and a series of public online sources (such as IMDb, Box Office Mojo, Opus, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacrtic and Wikipedia).  Consequently, I can’t share all of the figures as freely as I normally would.  Rentrak won’t let me republish their raw data and the BFI have provided some data for background research only.

Nonetheless, I feel that the key outcomes I am publishing today are new and noteworthy.  I have never before seen a box office chart for micro-budget films.

In summary…

  • The UK film with highest global gross (under £1m, Jan 2008 to Aug 2014) was Searching For Sugarman.
  • Between January 2008 and August 2014, there were 1,419 films made in the UK budgeted under £1 million
  • Only 7 of these grossed over £1 million in cinemas worldwide
  • 0.17% of the 1,190 UK films made on under £500k grossed over £1 million worldwide.
  • 20% of UK films budgeted under £1 million grossed at least £1 in any cinema around the world.
  • That figure drops to 16% for films under £500k and 10% for films budgeted under £150k.
  • Rotten Tomatoes provides data on just 24% of UK films budgeted under £500k and Metacritic only rated 4% of the same group.

Highest grossing UK films budgeted under £1m

The UK film with highest global box office gross released between January 2008 and August 2014 was Searching For Sugarman.  This film alone accounts for almost 24% of the combined gross of the top 50 films.

1Searching for Sugar Man2012Documentary Music Biopic
2Marley2012Documentary Music
3Locke2013Thriller Drama
4Anuvahood2011Comedy Spoof
5Still Life2013Comedy Drama
6Redirected2014Action Comedy
7Weekend2011Drama Gay interest Romance
8The Disappearance of Alice Creed2009Thriller Crime Drama
9The Act of Killing2012Documentary Socio-political Drama
12Shank2010Crime Action Drama
13Ill Manors2012Crime Drama
14The Spirit of '452013Documentary Socio-political
15Of Time and the City2008Documentary
16Kill List2011Horror Thriller Drama
17Papadopoulos & Sons2012Comedy Family
18The Caller2011Horror Crime
19Exam2009Thriller Horror
21Fire in Babylon2010Documentary Sport
22Metro Manila2013Thriller Drama
23Jig2011Documentary Music/Dance Comedy
24Dreams of a Life2011Documentary Drama
25The Summit2012Documentary Sport
26In Fear2013Thriller Horror
27How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?2010Documentary
28Cheerful Weather for the Wedding2012Drama Period drama Comedy
29The Pervert's Guide to Ideology2012Documentary
30Sket2011Thriller Crime
31Wild Bill2011Drama
32Leviathan2012Documentary Horror
33Wagner & Me2010Documentary Music Biopic
34No Greater Love2009Documentary
35Offender2012Thriller Drama Crime
36Pusher2012Crime Action Thriller
37McCullin2012Documentary War
38The Shock Doctrine2009Documentary
39DeadTime2012Horror Thriller Music
40The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)2011Horror Drama
41She, a Chinese2009Drama
42Letters to Sofija2013Biopic Drama Music
43Tortoise in Love2012Comedy Romance
44Tonight You're Mine2011Romance Music
45My Brother the Devil2012Drama Gay interest
46The Arbor2010Biopic Documentary Biopic
47Payback Season2012Thriller Drama
481 Day2009Drama
49A Field in England2013Horror Drama Historical
50Afghan Star2009Documentary

Highest grossing UK films budgeted under £500k

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Do filmmakers lie about their budgets?

Last week’s article didn’t feature any sexy charts, so I thought it would be a shame to disappoint film data nerds two weeks in a row.  As penance, I thought I’d tackle a juicy topic I’ve had on my mind for a while: Do filmmakers lie about their budgets?

The short answer is – yes, all the time.  There are times when you want your budget to seem higher than it actually is (to get noticed in the industry, to get a sales deal, to look cool at a party as the big-shot filmmaker) and sometimes when you want it to seem like you spent less than you actually did (getting good deals on kit and crew, when you’re embarrassed at how much you wasted, to look cool at a party as the resourceful filmmaker).

I took data from the BFI and HMRC and compared it with budget figures published online.  In summary…

  • Between a third and a half of British films released 2009-14 have publicly declared what their film cost to make.
  • 92% of films budgeted over £30 million declare a budget whereas for films under £150k it’s 40%.
  • At least 30% of British films released 2009-14 lied about their budget – 8% claiming it cost less than it did and 22% inflating their budget.
  • 43% of films actually made for £500k – £1m inflated their budgets publicly
  • 35% of films actually made for £1m – £2m under-reported their budget.
  • On average, British filmmakers making films under £150k claim that their budget is £255k.
  • Of the sub-£150k films released in 2014, 21% claimed that their film cost over half a million pounds.
  • Micro-budget filmmakers are increasingly inflating their budgets.
  • Filmmakers blame distribution and marketing pressures

How can we find out what a film really cost?

The budgets for Hollywood films tend to make their way into the public domain via leaked documents, gossip from the vast number of people ‘in the know’ and reports to stockholders. However, lower budget films don’t suffer from many of these leaks and so the only online source for most budgets is the filmmakers themselves.  This makes is extremely easy to misrepresent your film’s true cost.

In fact, there are very few places where filmmakers are forced to reveal the truth about their budget.  All UK companies have to file annual statements with Companies House showing basic financial data, but these don’t give enough detail to work out budgets. Films can be split across years, a company’s overall income/expenditure could be across numerous projects and some films are co-productions, meaning the film’s budget has been paid by more than one company.

Fortunately for us, the UK currently has a tax rebate system and a friendly government body. The producers of British films can claim back about a fifth of the money they spend on a film in the UK.  You need to get your film officially certified as ‘British’, work out how much you’re owed (for films budgeted under £20m, it’s 25% of 80% of your total spend, or 25% of the money you spend in the UK – whichever is lower) and then submit your corporation tax return.

HMRC (i.e. the taxman) shares some of these details with the BFI, meaning that the BFI has accurate figures for how much every single British film cost to make.  They don’t publish these figures in detail but they were kind enough to share budget range data with me. This means that for all recent British films, I know for a fact that one of the following budget ranges applies:

  • Over £30 million
  • Between £10 million and £30 million
  • Between £5 million and £10 million
  • Between £2 million and £5 million
  • Between £1 million and  £2 million
  • Between £0.5 million and £1 million
  • Between £150k and £500k
  • Under £150k

These budget ranges are as factual as anything can be, because if anyone lied to HMRC then they would have been committing fraud.  It does happen by only very rarely. I then cross-referred this data with publicly available data such as Wikipedia, IMDb, Box Office Mojo and interviews with filmmakers in order to measure how different the publicly stated budgets are from the legally-declared true budgets.

How many filmmakers publicly state their film’s budget?

Across all British films released between 2009 and 2014 (including those not released yet but scheduled for a 2014 release) I found budget figures for 38% of them.


Approximately three out of every ten films has a budget published in the year it’s released in cinemas.  Over time this increases; there are published budgets for almost half of all the British films released in 2010.

Are they telling the truth?

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