How are movie advertising budgets spent?

The marketing of movies is a fascinating topic. There is an inherent contradiction, because it is both very visible and highly opaque at the same time.

We see movie marketing every day on almost all possible platforms and yet filmmakers struggle to learn about the economics of how it works.

To help with this, I am going to take a look at how money is spent to market movies in the UK. This article is based on professional industry estimates of marketing spend for 1,288 movies released over the past decade (more info in the Notes section at the end).

How are movies promoted?

According to Nielsen Media Research, £229.5 million was spent advertising movies to the British public in 2017.

The spend is broken …

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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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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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    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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    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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    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 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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    How important is the opening week to a movie’s total box office?

    I was contacted by a reader who asked about the importance of the opening weekend as a percentage of the total amount a movie will gross.  Specifically, they asked about Black Panther, a movie which has stayed in cinemas for longer than most and for which the high point of press attention seemed to come a few weeks after its initial release.  “Does this mean that it made more money in weeks three and four than week one?” they asked. The significance of the opening week’s gross is a great topic to study, so I took a look.  I built a database of all movies released domestically (i.e. in American and Canadian cinemas) in the twenty years between 1998 and 2017, inclusive.  …

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