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 …

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How long does the average Hollywood movie take to make?

Today’s topic is one I’ve had on my ‘to do’ list for a while and it took the help of four students to gather all the data.  We looked at the key dates behind Hollywood studio movies in order to work out roughly how long the average Hollywood movie takes to make.

We built a database of 782 live-action studio-produced feature films, all of which were released domestically between 2006 and 2016, inclusive.  We then scoured trades and traditional press outlets to find the earliest date for the following key milestones:

  • Announcement – The date when it’s publicly announced that the film will be made.  Often this is when the industry announces that the script has been optioned, but could also be when the mainstream press …
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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 …
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How does the use of the terms ‘cinematographer’ and ‘director of photography’ differ?

When I was starting out in film, I always heard the head of the camera department being referred to as either “DoP” (pronounced dee-oh-pea) or “DP” (pronounced dee-pea), both of which are short for director of photography.  As I met more filmmakers, I learned that the same role is often called the cinematographer (pronounced… well, the way it’s written).

Today, I thought I’d take a look at these two job titles and try to make sense of where each is used.

What is a cinematographer / director of photography?

In most real-world situations, the two job titles are interchangeable. Simply put, this person is responsible for crafting the film’s visual style, or ‘look’.  They report directly to the director and have a large number of people answering to them.  …

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How many non-English language films get a US theatrical release?

This week is part two of an investigation into the languages found in modern movies. These articles came from a reader’s question.  Tui asked “I was wondering how many Non-U.S. English-language narrative drama features get Theatrical North American distribution“.  In the end, the data took me on quite a journey, so I split what I found into two articles:

  • Last week – What languages are most commonly used in movies?
  • This week – How many non-English films get a US theatrical release?
  • What is a Non-English language film?

    This might sound like an obvious point, but before we can study ‘non-English language movies’, we need to be clear what we mean by that term. Many movies feature other languages whilst still having English as their primary language. For …

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    Who are the most prolific people working in Hollywood?

    Last week, I looked at how the composition of crews on Hollywood movies has changed over the years.  This piece led a few people to ask questions on related topics, one of which I will address today.  John asked:”From your datasets can you see which people have worked the most often?”

    To answer the question, I looked at all credits received on the 200 highest-grossing movies at the US box office between 1997 and 2016 (i.e. 4,000 movies).  I then created league tables of the most frequently-credited people in a number of major roles.  Today’s research is only looking at movies, so work on other media is not being counted (i.e. TV shows).

    Most prolific directors in Hollywood

    Let’s start with the highest profile creative role …

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    How has the average Hollywood movie crew changed?

    In the past, I’ve looked at how big a movie crew can get, for both UK films and Hollywood movies. But I was recently asked by a reader how the composition of such crews has changed over time. Which departments are getting larger? Which jobs are on the rise and which are waning?

    To answer this, I looked at the credits of the top 200 US-grossing movies of each of the past 20 years (1997-2016), giving me a dataset of 4,000 movies.

    The big picture

    In the past two decades, the number of crew members on a top-grossing movie has grown by 77%, from 350 in 1997 to 620 in 2016. If we group those crew credits into stages of production, we …

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    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 …
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    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 …

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    48 trends reshaping the film industry: Part 4 – Industry changes

    This is the last instalment in a four-part series chronicling 48 trends and changes in the film industry.

    To compile this list, I have been back through all of my old research, conducted new projects, read outside research and solicited suggestions from my industry readership (thank you to everyone who contributed). The result is a list of 48 trends and changes affecting the film industry.  For readability, I have split them into four groups:

  • Development and finance
  • Cast, crew and production
  • Distribution and exhibition
  • Industry changes (see below)
  • 37. Cannes festival and market are getting bigger

    The Cannes festival (“Festival de Cannes”) and film market (“Marché du Film”) are the biggest events in the industry calendar and attract film professionals from all over the world.   The 2005 Cannes festival and market …

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