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.

An analysis of 12,309 feature film script reports

Script readers are powerful gatekeepers. They read and rate scripts on behalf of producers, studios and competitions, meaning that what they think of a script is critical.

Scoring well with readers could lead to your screenplay reaching the desks of the great and the good (who are hopefully also the rich and the powerful). Scoring poorly could mean that all the countless hours you put into your screenplay will just have been “character building”.

Script readers’ work is conducted in private and their feedback is rarely shared, even with the screenwriters they are rating.  This means there is very little empirical research into what readers think a good script looks like.

Given the critical role they play in filtering scripts, this lack of data …

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How much sexual violence is there in mainstream movies?

Last week, the UK’s film censorship body, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), announced new rules on the depiction of sexual violence on screen.

The BBFC’s certification guidelines are updated every five years after extensive public consultation.  Their most recent study highlighted the public’s worries about seeing sexual violence on the big screen and the “pornification” of modern movies.

The example cited in most of the press was The Duchess, a film which is currently a 12A but which could be upped to a 15 if it were ever re-certified under the new guidelines.  This led me to wonder: how many other films would be affected by the change?

To answer the question and to look into levels of sexual violence on the big …

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Was HMV’s bankruptcy down to industry changes or high prices?

In the final few days of 2018, UK retailer HMV went bankrupt for the second time in just under six years. This news led a few readers to get in touch with questions about the numbers behind HMV’s decline.

The general tenor of the questions could be summed up as “Was HMV’s failure down to the industry’s move to digital delivery or to being more expensive than their rivals?”

It’s a fascinating topic and one which gets to the very heart of the changing face of the Home Entertainment sector, both in the UK and worldwide.  We’re not going to be able to ascribe an exact percentage of HMV’s woes to each of the factors, but we can look at what the numbers …

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55 tips for attending the Sundance Film Festival

An annual stalwart of independent film, the Sundance Film Festival, kicks off in a couple of weeks.

In order to help those who are attending this year, I reached out to over a thousand past Sundance attendees to build a list of tips for surviving (and thriving) at the Sundance Film Festival.

This year, the festival is being held unusually late, starting on Thursday 24 January and finishing on Sunday 3rd February – only the second ever Sundance that has spilt over into February.

So here we have it. The tips below come from Sundance veterans with a combined total of over 600 trips to the festival.

Prepare, prepare, prepare
  • Arrive a day before your first meeting or event in order to get the lay of …
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Using data to determine if Die Hard is a Christmas movie

Ok, enough bickering and fighting.

Let’s settle this once and for all in the only way I know how – going into a topic in way too much detail. As we prepare to enter the year 32 ADH (a.k.a. After Die Hard), the world is gripped by a constantly nagging question.

No, it’s not “Why does everyone call Hans Gruber and his gang ‘terrorists’ when they were clearly bank robbers?”

Today we’re going to use data to answer the question “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” Along the way, we’re going to test Die Hard’s Christmas bona fides against all movies in US cinemas for the past thirty years, using a variety of methods.

I have put details of my sources and methodology at …

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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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