The cost of movie Prints and Advertising

Last week’s piece on the division of box office cinema has sparked a number of follow-up questions.  I will try to tackle the key questions in the coming weeks.  

First up – a number of filmmakers made the claim that distributors inflate the true cost of distributing a movie, in order to keep more of the income.   

It’s worth starting with a general note that I see no evidence of wide-spread false accounting. That’s not to say that there aren’t any instances of false cost inflation, but that the heart of this claim is a scepticism that it isn’t as expensive to put a movie into cinemas as distributors claim.  So today I will quickly run through the types of costs involved in …

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When and how the film business went digital

Last week, I looked at six trends for how the film business is changing.  It got a great response and I was heartened to see such interesting, lively debate about it.  One of the topics raised by a few people was the move from analog to digital processes.  I didn’t include the move to digital as a trend because it’s not one single thing, with each corner of the industry transitioning at a different pace.

So this week I thought I would take you through a quick tour of when and how various aspects of the film industry moved to digital technology.  For some aspects, I have lots of data, while others are a little scant.  If you have knowledge or data on anything …

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Are movies based on true stories better than fictional stories?

Last week, I looked at movies based on true stories, following a question from Kathleen Drumm, TIFF Industry Director.  Kathleen also asked about the quality of these movies and posited that they are likely to be better than your average movie, due to the fact that they frequently make up a large number of Oscar nominations for ‘Best Picture’. 

To study this topic, I built a dataset of all movies which grossed at least $1 in US cinemas between 1996 and 2015 (inclusive) and then looked at each movie’s Metascore.  Metascore averages the ratings of major film critics to produce a score out of 100.  The Metascore will stand in as our measure of what film critics think of a movie and we’ll judge the …

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How many movies are based on real life events?

This year we have experienced a number of real life events which if you saw them in a movie, would test the limits of your credulity. So perhaps appropriately, I have received a couple of questions about the representation of real life events in movies. Kathleen Drumm, Industry Director for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is running a session on 5th December entitled ‘Based on a True Story‘ and she emailed to ask about the current state of movies based on real life events.

I’m going to tackle this in two parts.  Today, I am going to look at the number of movies made based on real life events and then next week we’ll look at the quality and success of such movies.

Real …
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How does the average age of actors differ between genres?

Age is a touchy subject for many actors, and last September actors in California have won the right to have their date of birth removed from IMDb. IMDb claims that a date of birth is just a piece of biographical data (therefore fair game for publication) whereas the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) claim that it can be used against an actor – it’s not their true age that should matter but their ‘playing age’.  

In the past I have studied how Hollywood treats cast and crew of different ages.  I started by looking at how much older male romantic comedy actors are compared with their female co-stars (answer: 4.5 years older) and whether male action stars are getting older (answer: yes they …

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How many movies credits go uncredited?

Today’s article was inspired by a question from Pliny, founder of movie titling software Endcrawl.  We got chatting on Twitter and the topic of end credits came up.  

He mentioned that a couple of years ago they had worked on the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz and noticed that a large number of the cast and crew were missing from the end credits. According to IMDb, of the 391 people who worked on the film, only 50 received an on-screen credit.  

I agreed to take a look at the topic and Pliny agreed to write an article for the Endcrawl blog (it’s live and called ‘How to get the on-screen credits you deserve‘).  He also gave me some anonymised data …

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The ascension of Christian films

In Cannes this year I noticed a stark increase in faith-based content being offered in the film market.  It’s a strange sight to see stands offering wholesome Christian films about clean living next to stands offering horror films with all manner of sadism and perversion (I’m not being rude about the horror films – that’s quite literally how they sell themselves!)

So I decided to take a look at how the faith-based market is performing: specifically the recent rise in Christian narrative feature films coming out of the bible belt of America.  I’m sure this is a topic I will return to in the future as it’s fascinating to see such a quick growth in a new market but, for now, let’s …

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Do Hollywood movies make a profit?

For the third part in my series on the financial side of the film industry, I am turning to profitability and asking “Do Hollywood movies make a profit?”

Hollywood has a negative reputation when it comes to transparency and financial openness. It feels as though each month brings yet another news story about a Hollywood flop losing millions or another lawsuit where people accuse studios of fiddling the figures to prevent having to pay out profit shares. 

So let’s take a detailed look at profitability among Hollywood movies.  I will be working with three datasets, each providing a unique perspective on the matter…

  • The ‘Insider’ dataset.  A collection of 279 films for which I have inside financial data, revealing the true costs and income for the life …
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    How films make money pt2: $30m-$100m movies

    Last week I took you through all the costs involved in making and releasing a Hollywood blockbuster (budgeted over $100m), and how they earn their income.  

    This week we’re sliding down the budget range and looking how films make money on a smaller scale, with a focus on movies budgeted between $30m and $100m.

    Like last week, all of the recoupment data I’m discussing today comes from real financial figures gleaned from genuine Hollywood movies.  You can read more about the data sources in last week’s Epilogue.

    How films make money: Movies budgeted $30m to $100m

    Before we look at the financial data, we have to talk about the types of movies I’m referring to in today’s article.  Last week, I was able to treat …

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    How movies make money: $100m+ Hollywood blockbusters

    This is an article I have wanted to research and write for a long, long time. I finally had a moment to sit down and crunch the numbers – I hope it helps in the understanding of Hollywood economics.  It’s a lengthy one, so grab a cup of tea.

    Every six months or so, someone on my Facebook feed will share a list of “The Most Profitable Movies of All Time”.  These lists normally use the budget of the movie and the amount of money it collected in cinemas worldwide to conclude how much “profit” the movies made.  For example, “Paranormal Activity cost $15,000, grossed $193 million and so made a profit 1,286,566%“.  Another popular fallacy is that when a movie with a …

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