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 …

Read full article

The use of digital vs celluloid film on Hollywood movies

Three years ago, I looked at Hollywood’s switch from shooting on film to using digital acquisition methods.

Since then, I have received a number of questions about the topic.  Some are requests to update the piece with more recent data while others ask for more detail on how the use of digital formats differs between genres.

As requested, this article will bring the data up-to-date, add twice as many films (looking at the top 200 movies each year, where previously I looked at the top 100) and go into more detail over the differences between genres.

Tracking the switch from film to digital

I researched the cameras used on all live-action fiction feature films within the top 200 grossing charts of each year. Please …

Read full article

How much sexual violence is there in mainstream movies?

Last week, the UK’s film censorship body, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), announced new rules on the depiction of sexual violence on screen.

The BBFC’s certification guidelines are updated every five years after extensive public consultation.  Their most recent study highlighted the public’s worries about seeing sexual violence on the big screen and the “pornification” of modern movies.

The example cited in most of the press was The Duchess, a film which is currently a 12A but which could be upped to a 15 if it were ever re-certified under the new guidelines.  This led me to wonder: how many other films would be affected by the change?

To answer the question and to look into levels of sexual violence on the big …

Read full article

Using data to determine if Die Hard is a Christmas movie

Ok, enough bickering and fighting.

Let’s settle this once and for all in the only way I know how – going into a topic in way too much detail. As we prepare to enter the year 32 ADH (a.k.a. After Die Hard), the world is gripped by a constantly nagging question.

No, it’s not “Why does everyone call Hans Gruber and his gang ‘terrorists’ when they were clearly bank robbers?”

Today we’re going to use data to answer the question “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” Along the way, we’re going to test Die Hard’s Christmas bona fides against all movies in US cinemas for the past thirty years, using a variety of methods.

I have put details of my sources and methodology at …

Read full article

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 …

Read full article

How successful are sports movies? (And are they any good?)

Boxing movie Creed II opens in a few weeks and the early reviews suggest that it will be worth watching.  This has spurred me on to investigate a couple of related questions asked by readers about sports movies.

Nada asked about the accuracy of the industry adage that “sports films don’t work” and Jason asked “Am I right to think sports movies are normally pretty bad?”

Let’s a take a quick look at sports movies over the past twenty years to see how true each of these assertions is.

How many sports movies are there?

To study this topic, I looked at all movies released in US cinemas over the past two decades (1998-2017, inclusive) and figured out which were classed as “sports movies” by IMDb. …

Read full article

Are rom-coms shorter (and worse) than serious romance films?

Today’s topic was suggested by my wife (hello, honey!). For the longer story as to how this topic came up, see the epilogue at the end of the article.

For now, I’ll focus on what she suggested I research: Are romantic comedies shorter (and do they receive poorer reviews) than non-comedic romance movies?

I built a dataset of all movies which grossed at least $1 in US cinemas between 1980 and 2017 (13,159 movies) to try to discover the answer.

How romance compares to other genres

Let’s start by having a look at how the romance genre compares to other genres.  For each movie I gathered three pieces of information (where available):

  • Length, measured in minutes, from IMDb.
  • Metascore, which is the average score of all major critics, out of 100.
  • IMDb user …
Read full article

Patterns among successful comedy movies

Today, I’m sharing my most recent collaboration with Bruce Nash for the American Film Market.

This time, we investigated the common factors behind successful comedies.

Who watches comedies?

To understand how to make a comedy successful, we first looked at who watches them. We used data from UK cinema audience surveys by Pearl and Dean from the past twenty years to compare comedy films to those of other genres.

Let’s start with gender. At 54%, comedy had the second-highest percentage of women in their audiences, when compared all major genres, behind only romance (which stood at 59%). The other basic demographic category is age. To analyse this, we sub-divided the audience data by MPAA certificate to see how audiences differ between types of comedy.

As …

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 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.  …

Read full article

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 …
Read full article