Patterns among the most profitable movies budgeted $20m to $50m

Last year, I conducted a series of research projects with Bruce Nash of The Numbers, on behalf of the American Film Market.  Our findings were received well and so in the true spirit of the film industry, the AFM have commissioned some sequels and spin-offs! 

In one of the articles, we took a look at what it takes for a low-budget film to become a breakout hit, and discovered that the most successful movies came from a small number of specific genres. Twelve months on, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at films at the top end of the “independent” budget range and see if these hits also share some of the same DNA.

To do this, we compiled …

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How much of the UK film economy comes from abroad?

As we’ve previously discussed, the UK film economy is currently in bullish form.  One of the major reasons is the high levels of ‘Inward Investment’  i.e. films from other countries which are choosing to shoot in the UK.  

A few people have asked me to give an idea of just how much of the UK film economy comes from abroad.

How much of the UK film economy comes from aboard?

Productions funded by non-British sources have been growing significantly over the past decade. In 2016 they accounted for 85% of the money spent on film production in the UK, up from 67% in 2006.  This is thanks to the recent trend of the UK housing some of the world’s biggest films, such as all …

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How is a cinema’s box office income distributed?

Today, I’m going to tackle a couple of related topics which seem to come up frequently in reader questions and comments – how is a cinema’s box office income distributed, and how much of it ends up with the filmmakers?

On the face of it, the first question seems simple: how is box office ticket income divided?  However, it has proved an ongoing controversy, with some filmmakers claiming that cinemas keep most of it and some cinema staff claiming that they hand almost all of it over to filmmakers.  I have heard people on both sides wax lyrical about how they have the raw end of the deal.  In order to answer the question, I have been speaking to a number of people …

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The state of the UK film industry

The newspapers last week featured headlines like “UK film production break[s] records” and “Star Wars punches London film industry past light speed“.  This led to a number of people contacting me to ask if the overall message was true – is the UK film industry really doing as well as is being claimed?  

Most of the messages came from independent British filmmakers who were either sceptical at the claim that all was rosy in UK film, or who thought that the numbers were being cooked to make things look better than they are. 

The first thing to note is that I don’t doubt for a moment that the data is correct.  The BFI does a terrific job at collecting the raw data, …

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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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Six ways the film business is changing

The coming of a new year always makes me pause and take stock.  It’s a time when people traditionally ponder what they’re up to, where they’re going and what they want to do next.  So I have spent some time thinking about what’s happening in the film business and where we’re going.  I don’t like predictions (see the Epilogue for more about this) but there are a few trends which give us clues about the next few years in film.

Each of these trends really requires several charts and graphs, but just in case you had other plans for today I have limited myself to no more than one for each trend. I have added some links for further reading, for those of …

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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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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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The relative popularity of genres around the world

In the second of four articles we wrote for the American Film Market, Bruce Nash and I looked at the relative popularity of genres around the world.

We studied the territorial breakdown of theatrical box office grosses for 3,368 films covered by The Numbers’ international box office tracking. This covers most films released since the beginning of 2015, with some data going back to 2012. We developed a formula for assessing the relative strength or weakness of each genre within a territory when compared to that genre’s global performance (more details at the end of the article).

In the charts below, zero indicates the global average performance, so a positive score indicates that the genre in question performs disproportionality well in that territory.

Action

We …

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What types of low-budget films make the most money?

This is the fourth article in my series looking at the financial side of the film business.  In previous articles, I’ve looked at $100m+ Hollywood blockbusters, $30m-$100m movies and profitability across all movies released between 1990 and 2015.  

This week I have teamed up with Bruce Nash from The Numbers for a research project originally commissioned by the American Film Market.  They asked us to look into what types of low-budget films “break out” (i.e. make far more profit than is typical for films of their scale) and if there were any lessons for independent low-budget film producers. 

What types of low-budget films make the most money?

To discover the commonalities amongst low-budget breakout hits, we began with a list of over 3,000 …

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