Can the film industry halt the decline of young audiences in cinemas?

Industry watchers (and regular readers) will know that there is an increasing concern in the film business about the declining cinema attendance among young people.  Teenagers and young adults have always formed the biggest group of cinema attendees and yet we have seen a decline in many countries in the current decade.

Last week, I ran a symposium for senior industry figures in UK cinema, supported by Into Film.  In attendance were representatives from the biggest cinema chains, distributors, public bodies, industry bodies and some big names from film production.  The event was a private forum for executives to share their experiences, ideas and solutions with the aim of increasing cinema attendance among young people.  (Note: We observed the Chatham House …

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Why do cinemas hate long movies?

Last week, I was chatting with a cinema owner who was angrily complaining about Martin Scorsese’s new movie, The Irishman.

The movie has proved controversial on a number of fronts:

  • It has a very short ‘release window’, thanks to it being entirely funded by Netflix.  This means that it will available to stream only 19 days after it first appeared in cinemas.  This has caused much consternation in the exhibition sector, leading to major chains refusing to screen it.
  • Scorsese has made some comments about his dislike for Marvel movies, referring to them as “not cinema” and describing them as “theme parks”.
  • It is a very long movie, coming in at three and a half hours.  This means that it is longer than 99.8% …
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Do you need a famous actor to get your film into cinemas?

A common belief among sales and distribution professionals is that “names sell”.  As in, films starring famous actors (“names”) are more marketable than films without any famous names. But how true is this?

Bruce Nash and I teamed up to find out in the latest of our research projects for the American Film Market.

Studying all US-produced movies shot in 2017 we looked to see if having a well-known actor in a leading role helped get a film into cinemas. We focused on films made in 2017 to ensure that they have had time to either find a theatrical release or not. For example, a few of the films shot in 2017 have only recently been released, up to two and a …

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How many independent films reach cinemas?

For many independent filmmakers, whether or not their film reaches the big screen means everything.  No matter the money to be made via television deals or the massive audiences possible with VOD, a theatrical release is where it’s at.

In a new piece of research for the American Film Market, Bruce Nash and I set out to discover how many films actually make it to cinemas.

We built a dataset of all United States-produced narrative (non-documentary) feature films which were shot in 2017 and looked at their distribution outcome.

What is a theatrical release?

Before we get into the details, we need to be a little bit careful about our definition of a “theatrical release”. For example, it isn’t really fair to compare a …

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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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