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.

After Die Hard, what’s the next most contentious “Christmas” movie?

Last year, I used a variety of data-led indicators to assess the claim that Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

If you don’t want any spoilers as to the result, stop reading this now and head on over to that article.

I used three categories of indicators through which a movie’s “Christmasness” could be judged – artistic, commercial and cultural. The first considers what’s in the movie, the second how it’s sold and the third how it’s perceived.

As time moves on, it’s the final of those three which becomes most crucial.  The artistic nature of the film remains static (well, unless George Lucas gets to it) and the commercial lens is not very reliable, given movie marketers’ penchant for pushing literally anything …

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Which famous actors have a worse career than Al Pacino?

In an interview last week, Al Pacino revealed that he enjoys starring in bad movies as he views it as a challenge to improve them to the point of mediocrity.

As Al put it…

Sometimes they offer you money to do something that’s not adequate. And you talk yourself into it. And somewhere within you, you know that this thing is gonna be a lemon. But then, when it comes full circle, and you see it, you say, “Oh, no. I’m gonna make this better.” And you spend a lot of time and you’re doing all these things, and you say, “If I can just get this to be a mediocre film,” and you get excited by that. It’s an impulse that …

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Can the film industry halt the decline of young audiences in cinemas?

Industry watchers (and regular readers) will know that there is an increasing concern in the film business about the declining cinema attendance among young people.  Teenagers and young adults have always formed the biggest group of cinema attendees and yet we have seen a decline in many countries in the current decade.

Last week, I ran a symposium for senior industry figures in UK cinema, supported by Into Film.  In attendance were representatives from the biggest cinema chains, distributors, public bodies, industry bodies and some big names from film production.  The event was a private forum for executives to share their experiences, ideas and solutions with the aim of increasing cinema attendance among young people.  (Note: We observed the Chatham House …

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Why do cinemas hate long movies?

Last week, I was chatting with a cinema owner who was angrily complaining about Martin Scorsese’s new movie, The Irishman.

The movie has proved controversial on a number of fronts:

  • It has a very short ‘release window’, thanks to it being entirely funded by Netflix.  This means that it will available to stream only 19 days after it first appeared in cinemas.  This has caused much consternation in the exhibition sector, leading to major chains refusing to screen it.
  • Scorsese has made some comments about his dislike for Marvel movies, referring to them as “not cinema” and describing them as “theme parks”.
  • It is a very long movie, coming in at three and a half hours.  This means that it is longer than 99.8% …
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How many independent films are based on previous films?

If you ask the average movie-goer what they don’t like about Hollywood movies, they are likely to mention the seemingly endless production of sequels, prequels and spin-offs.

Last week, a filmmaker asked me how common these were among independent movies.  I didn’t know offhand, so I decided to find out.

I used my database of all feature films made in the past twenty years (1999-2018) and set about discovering which were derived from other films.

How often are independent films derived from a previous film?

Across all independent films produced in the past two decades, just under 7% were derived from a previous feature film in some way.

Action, Adventure and Fantasy films were the most likely to be following on from a previous film, …

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What percentage of independent films are profitable?

The profitability of independent films is a complicated topic for a whole variety of reasons.

The indie film sector is:

  • Decentralised. It relies on a constantly shifting chain of third parties across the world, with no requirement to report to a centralised body, no third party verification and lacks even agreed reporting standards.
  • Opaque. Some revenue streams withhold all data (such as VOD subscription platforms like Netflix and Amazon) while even the most transparent streams come with levels of uncertainty (i.e. theatrical gross is clear but the costs it took to earn that gross is not).  But it’s not just the sources of income; distributors, sales agents and producers keep their figures extremely close to their chest, often not even sharing full data with those …
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Do you need a famous actor to get your film into cinemas?

A common belief among sales and distribution professionals is that “names sell”.  As in, films starring famous actors (“names”) are more marketable than films without any famous names. But how true is this?

Bruce Nash and I teamed up to find out in the latest of our research projects for the American Film Market.

Studying all US-produced movies shot in 2017 we looked to see if having a well-known actor in a leading role helped get a film into cinemas. We focused on films made in 2017 to ensure that they have had time to either find a theatrical release or not. For example, a few of the films shot in 2017 have only recently been released, up to two and a …

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What kinds of movies did Distribber attract?

As many of you may have heard last week, film aggregator Distribber looks close to collapse. Their office has been closed, staff laid off, senior figures have departed and filmmakers owed money can’t even get a reply to their questions.

I’ve had a number of questions from readers and industry commentators concerning the data behind Distribber. I have no special access to Distribber data and don’t think it’s my place to offer any kind of opinion on the process. But there is one thing I can do to aid the debate – look at the kinds of films handled by Distribber.

First, let’s backtrack and briefly look at who Distribber were/are and the function aggregators serve for independent filmmakers.

What is an aggregator?

In …

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Are movies getting longer?

It: Chapter Two is an unusual horror film because it’s almost three hours long.  This means it is longer than 99.78% of all horror films made over the past twenty years.

Earlier in the year Avengers: Endgame was one minute over the three-hour barrier and Martine Scorsese’s up-coming epic The Irishman is expected to be three and a half hours long (longer even than the Godfather: Part Two).

Is this reflecting a wider trend or are these films just a few headline-grabbing examples?

I thought I would investigate.

We’ll start will all movies made around the world over the past twenty years, and then zero in on the trends under the surface.

The average running time of all movies produced worldwide

Average running times fell during …

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How many independent films reach cinemas?

For many independent filmmakers, whether or not their film reaches the big screen means everything.  No matter the money to be made via television deals or the massive audiences possible with VOD, a theatrical release is where it’s at.

In a new piece of research for the American Film Market, Bruce Nash and I set out to discover how many films actually make it to cinemas.

We built a dataset of all United States-produced narrative (non-documentary) feature films which were shot in 2017 and looked at their distribution outcome.

What is a theatrical release?

Before we get into the details, we need to be a little bit careful about our definition of a “theatrical release”. For example, it isn’t really fair to compare a …

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