How has the cost of making a movie changed over the past twenty years?

According to news reports, Netflix boss Ted Sarandos has privately been telling producers that his company will be more cost-conscious going forward.

This comes on the heels of Netflix’s Triple Frontier (a movie which reportedly cost $115 million but which has gone down poorly with audiences and critics alike) and their up-coming blockbuster Red Notice (which is likely to cost upwards of $200 million, including unusually large pay-cheques for its stars, The Rock, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds).

Netflix’s journey towards bigger and bigger budgets, only to then start lowering them again, is a story Hollywood knows well.  Over the past century, most of the major studios have had moments of budget inflation and belt-tightening.

Last week, I shared my research into how much the average …

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How much does the average movie cost to make?

Among the most frequent questions I’m asked by those new to the film industry is “How much does the average movie cost to make?”

The short answer is “it depends”.  It’s similar to asking “How much does the average meal cost to make?” It depends where you are, who’s making it, for whom and whether Robert Downey Jr. is involved (ok, so maybe this last one only applies to movies).

This would make for rather a short blog article, so instead I thought I’d take a deeper look at whether there are useful ballparks which can give a sense of scale on movie budgets.

I built up a dataset of 5,713 feature films released domestically (i.e. in US & Canadian cinemas) for which I …

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Is a delayed release a sign that a movie will be bad?

X-Men: Dark Phoenix opened in cinemas a few weeks ago – a release date which is significantly later than first intended.

The film’s director, Simon Kinberg, blamed the delayed release on a few factors, including the complexity of the film’s visual effects.  Said Kinberg:

When we felt like we weren’t going to be able to complete the movie to the level we wanted to complete it from a visual effects standpoint, we considered moving it from November [2018] to February [2019]. Then, because of the way the international calendar was for us and how fast we could get materials to other territories, we felt like February became not just challenging, but not necessarily the best window internationally for the film.

Dark Phoenix started shooting …

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Which countries most commonly team up to create film co-productions?

In the past few months, I have received a growing number of questions relating to international collaboration on movies. Some relate to the individual level of cast and crew working across borders while others focus on films as commercial products manufactured in more than one country.

It’s hard to tell why the topic of international collaboration in the film industry is becoming more frequent in readers’ questions.  It could be Brexit specifically or a more general sense that as nationalism rises around the world, the need for partnership in the arts increases.

With no Brexit deal on the horizon, we are still unsure what Britain’s departure from the EU will mean for the British and European film industries.  Some aspects both have …

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How do film budgets change as they grow?

One of the reasons it’s hard to make your first movie is that much of the information you need is not available. While we can all read granular box office figures online, it’s often hard to reliably discover how much a movie cost to make and it’s near impossible to know how they spent that money.

And so I’m pretty excited to share today’s research. It’s a collaboration with Wayne Marc Godfrey, film producer and financier of more than 125 independent feature films. Later this year, he’s launching a new receivables and collections platform for creators and distributors called purely.capital.  In the lead-up to purely.capital’s launch, we’re working together on a few articles to shine a light on the financial side of independent film.

First …

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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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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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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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