Film Data Blog

Each week I look at a different topic around the film industry, focusing on the data and statistics which reveal what's going on.

How “popular” are Oscar-nominated movies?

A few weeks ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced three changes coming to the Oscars from 2020:

  • Sooner – The ceremony will be held earlier than in previous years, moving from towards the end of February to towards the start.
  • Shorter – The telecast will be shorter, with ‘lesser’ awards announced during advertising breaks.
  • Studio-friendlier – The introduction of a new category “designed around achievement in popular film“.

The response from the industry was swift and largely negative. I’m not going to comment on the efficacy of the changes, but I am interested in looking at how ‘popular films’ have fared in Oscars past.

Presumably, part of the reason for the new category is that the Academy feels that many of the movies most enjoyed by film …

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What percentage of movies are available to stream, rent or buy online?

Screenwriter and writing community hero John August posed a question on Twitter a couple of days ago.  He was surprised to find that some major movies are not available to stream or buy in the US, despite their clear value and audience interest.

He asked people to add any other movies they find which fit his criteria (i.e. top 100 mainstream, English-language movies) and which are not currently available to stream, rent or buy digitally in the US.

This sounded like a fun challenge, so I took it on.  I expanded the criteria slightly to look at the 200 top grossing movies of the past two decades, 4,000 movies in total.

I’m also going to subdivide the ‘top films’ of each year into three cohorts:

  • Highest Grossing, measured via the US box …
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Are movies with positive messages better than those without?

When I’m thinking about what movies I enjoy, I rarely consider whether they have a positive message or contain positive role models.  But on a subconscious level, I’m sure these factors play a part in how much satisfaction I get from the flick.  For example, I enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street but felt it was held back by the fact that its characters learnt nothing and were triumphant in their duplicity, selfishness and douchebaggery.

To investigate this topic, I used data from an American nonprofit pressure group called Common Sense Media. They describe themselves as “the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music“.  Their reviewers watch each movie, provide …

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How do movie genre tastes change with age?

Today’s article is a response to a comment posted on an article I wrote last year entitled What films are older cinemagoers watching?  Jonathan asked which movies audiences aged 18-24 years old, 25-34 years old and 35-44 years old watch.

By combing UK box office receipts and cinema exit polls, we can get a sense of how movie tastes differ by age. There are some notes at the bottom of this article which are worth reading if you want to know more about the data.

Let’s start with the big picture…

Who goes to the cinema?

The original article focused on what movies the oldest segment of the UK cinema-going audience chooses to watch.  For slightly myopic reasons, the film industry’s demographic banding has historically labelled everybody older than …

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A dive into the data behind film crowdfunding rewards

This week, I’m celebrating the launch of my new book ‘How To Crowdfund Your Film‘.  It’s published by Creative Essentials in physical and Kindle editions.

To coincide with the launch, I thought I would tackle a related question from a reader who got in touch to ask about the rewards offered on crowdfunding sites.  In the past, I have looked at the number of rewards offered but this reader was specifically asking about the success of different types of rewards.  i.e. not what filmmakers want to offer but rather what backers want to accept.

So I gathered data on rewards for all Kickstarter film projects launched between April 2009 and May 2018 – that’s 466,998 rewards in total – and set to work.

A quick primer on crowdfunding

Let’s start with a …

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Advice for filmmakers trying to navigate the film industry

This blog is my 250th article and it’s also my five-year blogiversary (I know that’s not a real word but I felt the made-up occasion needed a made-up word).

Over the past five years, I have published research on every single sector within the film industry, from directing to diversity, funding to festivals, actors to awards, stunts to producers.

Almost all of my work follows the same pattern: I take a simple question, build up a dataset, analyse it and then explain my findings with a whole host of charts and graphs.  This format allows me to tackle most of the questions I get from my readers.

However, there is one request which comes up all the time and which I have not yet …

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Gender diversity among film professionals working in sales and distribution

Between filmmakers and film audiences lie a complex network of middlemen, distributors and sub-distributors.  They play a vital role in the film value chain, ensuring that films are available all over the world in all manner of formats to all types of audiences.

This side of the industry is less visible than most other aspects, for a number of reasons.  Firstly, they don’t interact directly with the public the way cinemas do.  Secondly, their work is not visually interesting.  Film fans enjoy behind-the-scenes footage from movie shoots but I doubt behind the scenes of a negotiating re-licensing deal would have the same appeal.  Finally, it’s a fairly small sector with a relatively low number of people working in it (certainly compared to …

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How important is the opening week to a movie’s total box office?

I was contacted by a reader who asked about the importance of the opening weekend as a percentage of the total amount a movie will gross.  Specifically, they asked about Blank Panther, a movie which has stayed in cinemas for longer than most and for which the high point of press attention seemed to come a few weeks after its initial release.  “Does this mean that it made more money in weeks three and four than week one?” they asked.

The significance of the opening week’s gross is a great topic to study, so I took a look.  I built a database of all movies released domestically (i.e. in American and Canadian cinemas) in the twenty years between 1998 and 2017, inclusive.  I …

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The scale of BFI development and production funding

In a recent conversation with some filmmakers, I was asked about the amount of money the British Film Institute (BFI) awards to British films for development and production activities.

I thought it was a great topic for an article, so I agreed to take a look.

The BFI is a public body which, among other things, awards money raised from the National Lottery to people, projects and productions which will help the British film industry.  In the past, the BFI was primarily a cultural and heritage organisation but in 2011 its remit grew when it was given Lottery funding responsibilities from the newly-shut UK Film Council (UKFC).

How significant is the BFI’s financial support to UK films?

It’s hard to understate just how much …

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Major new study into gender inequality among UK film and TV writers

Almost exactly two years ago, Alexis Kreager and I published a big report into the gender inequality faced by film directors working in the UK film industry.

Soon after it was published, we were approached by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) about studying the plight of screenwriters, both in the film and television industries.  This led to the WGGB (along with the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society – ALCS) supporting us in carrying out a deep data dive into the experiences of UK writers.

The full 177-page report can be downloaded here, and I have written a brief summary in the article below.

Download the full report

You can read more about the Writers’ Guild and ALCS’ campaign connected to the report at writersguild.org.uk/equalitywrites

The report covers both …

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