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 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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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