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.

The data behind terrible, terrible movies

Last week, I used the release of Robin Hood as a catalyst for an article about box office flops.  Normally, I don’t like to single films out for undue criticism but sometimes it can’t be avoided.  I’ll try and be more restrained in future articles.

This week, I’m turning to the completely different topic of terrible, terrible movies – such as the recent release of Robin Hood.  The film has received an average score of 32 out of 100 from film critics (just 15% of reviewers gave it a positive review) and it has an IMDb score of 5.3 out of 10. Also, I saw it and I want my time back.

To try and make lemonade out of this lemon, I decided …

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Is the number of box office flops increasing?

In the last few weeks, there has been a resurgence of news articles about movie flops (sometimes called ‘box office bombs’).  These have been sparked by recent under-performing releases such as London Fields, Robin Hood and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and fueled by the public’s Schadenfreude at watching big movies fail.

A few readers have asked me about the wider trends behind flops, so I thought I’d turn to the data to have a look.

The very first thing to say on the topic is that whether a movie has flopped is often a subjective judgement.  A small number of releases will have failed by everyone’s measurement but many box office disappointments will only be regarded as flops by some …

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Are movies dominated by a small number of old male composers?

Last week, a reader emailed to ask “How many composers actually work in Hollywood?!” They then added: “It seems to me the same old men score all the movies”.

It’s a great question so I thought I’d take a look and, along the way, see what else I could discover about film composers.

I used my dataset of all films released in US cinemas in the thirty years between 1988 and 2017 and focused on everyone who received a composer credit.

Top composers rule the sector

Across my dataset of thirty years of movies, 4,749 people received a composing credit.  The vast majority of film composers did not work on another film after that initial credit (although they may have worked on other types …

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How successful are sports movies? (And are they any good?)

Boxing movie Creed II opens in a few weeks and the early reviews suggest that it will be worth watching.  This has spurred me on to investigate a couple of related questions asked by readers about sports movies.

Nada asked about the accuracy of the industry adage that “sports films don’t work” and Jason asked “Am I right to think sports movies are normally pretty bad?”

Let’s a take a quick look at sports movies over the past twenty years to see how true each of these assertions is.

How many sports movies are there?

To study this topic, I looked at all movies released in US cinemas over the past two decades (1998-2017, inclusive) and figured out which were classed as “sports movies” by IMDb. …

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How common are actor-directors?

Last week, I was chatting with NYU professor Paul Thompson and he asked me about the predominance of actor-directors.

In the past, I have looked at the writer-director hybrid, as well as other facets of directing (including age, gender, career path and hardest working), but never the actor-director. It’s certainly a relevant topic, as actor Bradley Cooper’s directing debut, A Star Is Born, is receiving rave reviews and an impressive box office haul.

To get a sense of how many actors are directing (and vice versa) I looked at all movies released in US cinemas between 1988 and 2017 (11,841 movies) and zeroed in on the directors who’ve also received acting credits.

How many directors have also received an acting credit?

This topic is slightly more complicated than it at …

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What the data says about producing low-budget horror films

This is the fourth of four articles I co-authored with Bruce Nash on behalf of the American Film Market.

We have previously looked at drama, comedy and family films and today we turn to horror.

Specifically, horror movies budgeted between $500,000 and $5 million which were released domestically (i.e. in the US and Canada) between 2000 and 2016.

We have boiled down all our data, statistics and modelling to a number of quick takeaways on the horror genre. They are:

  • Horror movies are the most profitable genre
  • …but also the riskiest genre
  • Quality doesn’t matter all that much
  • Your release will either be very wide or very small
  • Horror audiences are more likely to be working class
  • Let’s dive in and look at each of these findings in detail…

    1. …
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    Is Jason Blum right that there is a shortage of female horror directors?

    Last week, horror super-producer Jason Blum got himself in hot water after a comment he made during an interview with Polygon.

    Blum said “There are not a lot of female directors period and even less who are inclined to do horror”.

    When I first read this, I was horrified!  How could he say such a thing?  Doesn’t he know that the right thing to say was “fewer who are inclined to do horror”, not “less”?!

    Ok, grammar pedantry aside, the quote made him the target of a number of negative comments and articles.  I’m not seeking to add commentary to the debate, nor to support or chastise Blum for this.  Rather, I wanted to take a look at the data behind his assertion and use it to discuss female directors …

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    Are rom-coms shorter (and worse) than serious romance films?

    Today’s topic was suggested by my wife (hello, honey!). For the longer story as to how this topic came up, see the epilogue at the end of the article.

    For now, I’ll focus on what she suggested I research: Are romantic comedies shorter (and do they receive poorer reviews) than non-comedic romance movies?

    I built a dataset of all movies which grossed at least $1 in US cinemas between 1980 and 2017 (13,159 movies) to try to discover the answer.

    How romance compares to other genres

    Let’s start by having a look at how the romance genre compares to other genres.  For each movie I gathered three pieces of information (where available):

    • Length, measured in minutes, from IMDb.
    • Metascore, which is the average score of all major critics, out of 100.
    • IMDb user …
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    How big is the UK ‘event cinema’ market?

    A frequently discussed shift in the film business over the past decade has been in the home entertainment sector, thanks to piracy and VOD.

    However, there has been another big shift which is sometimes overlooked.  This one takes place in the exhibition sector, where we’ve seen a new type of movie-going experience emerge: event cinema.

    Event cinema performances are a hybrid of traditional cinema (projected moving images on a cinema screen) and other elements (such as theatrics, live interaction or watching live events beamed from another part of the world).

    It’s been a few years since I last covered this emerging sector, so I thought I’d return to see what’s changed.

    Event cinema’s rise

    It’s easy to see the appeal of event cinema, both to …

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    Patterns among successful comedy movies

    Today, I’m sharing my most recent collaboration with Bruce Nash for the American Film Market.

    This time, we investigated the common factors behind successful comedies.

    Who watches comedies?

    To understand how to make a comedy successful, we first looked at who watches them. We used data from UK cinema audience surveys by Pearl and Dean from the past twenty years to compare comedy films to those of other genres.

    Let’s start with gender. At 54%, comedy had the second-highest percentage of women in their audiences, when compared all major genres, behind only romance (which stood at 59%). The other basic demographic category is age. To analyse this, we sub-divided the audience data by MPAA certificate to see how audiences differ between types of comedy.

    As …

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