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.

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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The sex, drugs and violence contained in MPAA ratings

In a month’s time, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of their rating system, and so it seemed an opportune moment to take a dive into the data behind MPAA ratings.

From 1968, a new voluntary code was established for movie certification in America, managed by the MPAA, along with the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) and the International Film Importers & Distributors of America (IFIDA).

The system has been tweaked a few times since its creation and was last updated in 1996 when the ratings were set as:

  • G: General Audiences – all ages admitted
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested – some material may not be suitable for children
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned – some material may be inappropriate …
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How many festival-nominated movies get theatrical distribution?

This weekend, I was having lunch with friends and they recommended a movie they had seen at the Locarno Film Festival earlier in the summer. I came home and looked it up, only to discover that there were no plans for the film to be released theatrically in the UK.

I have previously studied how many Cannes-nominated films reached UK cinemas and found it to be quite high (84% of movies nominated in 2015).  This got me thinking: how representative of the festival circuit is Cannes?

Cannes is probably the best-known and most prestigious festival in the world, so we would expect that more of their nominated movies get a full release than films at other festivals.  But by how much? Let’s take a look.

How many …
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How important are quality and cast for dramas?

Today, I’m sharing another project I carried out for the American Film Market along with Bruce Nash from The Numbers. In this article, we’re going to look at the performance of dramas, and what it takes for them to be successful.

The moniker ‘drama’ is often maligned by distribution professionals as not being a real genre.  There is some truth to this claim – many films which lack a clear genre are simply labelled as dramas, and drama is a rather broad classification (i.e. any moment in life can technically be labelled as drama, whereas not every event can be classed as romantic, sci-fi, western etc).

The main purpose of genre classification is to set the audiences’ expectations.  What will they get in return for …

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Three ways to increase your chances of success when making a family film

Four times a year, the American Film Market asks Bruce Nash and I to crunch the numbers on a topic relevant to the segment of their audience that are low budget producers.  In the past, we’ve looked at topics such as what types of independent films make the most money, patterns among breakout hits at different budget ranges ($3m to $10m, $10m to $20m and $20m to $50m), what VOD audiences watch, and which movies travel best.

This year, they have asked us to focus on four different genres and look at what producers can do to increases their chances of financial success.

First up – family films.

The genre classification ‘family’ is an interesting one.  Some genres are defined by their content (such as …

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Are romantic comedies dying?

Today’s article is in response to a question from Jack Malvern at The Times.  He got in touch to ask if fewer romantic comedies were being made.

There has been press speculation that the “rom-com” genre is moving away from the big screen and onto subscription VOD platforms such as Netflix.  So I agreed to take a look.

For today’s research, I am referring to “rom-coms” as films with both the genres of “Romance” and “Comedy”.  There’s more on that classification in the Notes section at the end of the article.

I built datasets of all movies made between 1980 and 2017 (190,544 movies), identified which had grossed at least $1 at the US box office (13,159 movies) and out of those I included any which …

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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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