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. …
    Read full article

    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 …

    Read full article

    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 …
    Read full article

    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 …

    Read full article

    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 …

    Read full article

    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 …

    Read full article

    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 Blank 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.  I …

    Read full article

    The prevalence of sequels, remakes and original movies

    Over the weekend, I saw Avengers: Infinity War.  I shall avoid talking about the actual movie so you don’t have to worry about spoilers here.  What I do want to discuss is originality amongst top movies.  Before the Avengers began saving the world, we were treated to trailers for nothing but sequels, prequels and other movies based on existing material.

    While hardly a scientific way of judging all of Hollywood’s output, it did underline the issue for me. 2018 is going to be a bumper year for such movies, with cinemas showing:

    • Sequels such as Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Sherlock Gnomes, Johnny English Strikes Again, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Fifty Shades Freed, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Deadpool 2, The Equalizer 2, Super …
    Read full article

    How MoviePass could revolutionise the cinema business

    The film business has changed more in the past few decades than in any time since its inception.  Technological innovations have massively affected almost every area of the film lifecycle, including:

    • Pre-production. Computer-based scheduling, email communication with cast and crew, virtual casting tapes / Skype casting, mobile phones on set, etc.
    • Production. Digital cameras have made it cheaper and easier to shoot, watch back rushes, test digital effects on-set, etc.
    • Post-production. Probably the biggest area of technical change.  Most of us will think about the boom in Visual Effects but there have been big changes behind the scenes, too. Computer-based editing has shrunk the cost and scale of picture editing, allowing for greater collaboration between people (either in the same location or apart) and …
    Read full article

    Are cinema box office takings rising or falling?

    In the last few weeks, there have been a number of press articles discussing the state of the theatrical box office.  Some suggest that the picture is rosy (“Cinema box office breaks record third year in a row“) while others claim it’s in a decline (“2017 was the worst year for movie ticket sales in over two decades“).

    I have been contacted by a few readers who asked about these seemingly-conflicting headlines and wanted to know which picture was more accurate.

    The short story is that this is no big mystery – the articles are referring to different countries and sometimes different ways of measuring cinema attendance.  In the case of the articles mentioned above, the first is reporting total box office gross in the …

    Read full article