Do you need a famous actor to get your film into cinemas?

A common belief among sales and distribution professionals is that “names sell”.  As in, films starring famous actors (“names”) are more marketable than films without any famous names. But how true is this?

Bruce Nash and I teamed up to find out in the latest of our research projects for the American Film Market.

Studying all US-produced movies shot in 2017 we looked to see if having a well-known actor in a leading role helped get a film into cinemas. We focused on films made in 2017 to ensure that they have had time to either find a theatrical release or not. For example, a few of the films shot in 2017 have only recently been released, up to two and a …

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How valuable is experience when producing movies?

In much of human life, we equate the length of time someone has been performing a task with their level of skill.  Businesses proudly state how long ago they were founded, a lawyer with “30 years’ experience” can charge more than one fresh out of college and ‘time served’ often denotes seniority.

But is this true of the film industry?

Put more directly, does the number of films a producer has made indicate how likely their next project is to succeed?

To answer this, I teamed up with Bruce Nash from The Numbers.  We focused on 2,911 narrative (i.e. non-documentary) feature films released (either theatrically, direct-to-video or VOD) between 1999 and 2018.  For each film, we have detailed estimates of their financial performance, …

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Is it better to have one producer or a team of producers?

I have produced films alone and I have produced in partnership with other producers.  Personally, I prefer the latter.

Producing a movie is a big undertaking and so it’s good to have people to share the load and journey with.  Plus the film gets to benefit from multiple people’s strengths, passion and contacts.

Recently, I was chatting to a producer who has the opposite view. They prefer to have the sole producing responsibilities rest on their shoulders as it allows them to keep the film on track: one vision with one leader.

So I thought it would be interesting to look at what the data reveals.  We can’t objectively test ‘which is best’, but we can look at one facet of the question …

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Is a movie’s box office gross connected to its budget?

In the last couple of weeks, I have looked at a number of topics around movie budgets.

To complete this trilogy, I am turning to the connection between a movie’s budget and the amount of money it collects at the box office.  Specifically, I’ll be looking at the “Domestic” gross, i.e. all the money spent on movie tickets in US and Canadian cinemas.

I’ll be using my dataset of 5,713 feature films released domestically for which I could find a public budget figure.  See the Notes section for details and caveats of budget information. To measure the extent to which the budget and box office gross are correlated, I’ll be using the Pearson correlation coefficient.

A coefficient of minus one means they’re perfectly negatively …

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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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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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What percentage of film producers are women?

Last week, I looked at producers’ careers and this week I am going to use the same data to look at how the picture differs between male and female film producers.

This research harnesses my dataset of every feature film released between 1949 and 2018 inclusive. This includes 631,365 producer credits across 274,991 films and 269,385 individual producers.

For today’s article, I’m going to assume that readers are familiar with the different types of producing credits.  If you would like a quick primer then head over to last week’s article, entitled On average, how many films does a producer produce? In the opening section, I have detailed the different credits and what they mean.

What percentage of film producers are women?

In 2018, 26.4% of all …

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On average, how many films does a producer produce?

A few months ago, I looked at the average number of films a director is likely to make over their career.  This led to people asking about producers and so I agreed to take a look.

The role of a movie producer is wide-ranging, flexible and often confusing.  Added to that, there are a number of different types of producer credit, each holding different meaning and power.

I used my dataset of every fiction feature film made between 1949 and 2018 inclusive, and zeroed in on the producer credits.  This includes 631,365 producer credits across 274,991 films and 269,385 individual producers.

Let’s start by looking at what producer credits there are and then move on to producing careers.

Producers award producer credits

For most senior positions on major films, there …

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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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What the data says about producing low-budget horror films

This is the fourth of four articles I co-authored with Bruce Nash on behalf of the American Film Market.

We have previously looked at drama, comedy and family films and today we turn to horror.

Specifically, horror movies budgeted between $500,000 and $5 million which were released domestically (i.e. in the US and Canada) between 2000 and 2016.

We have boiled down all our data, statistics and modelling to a number of quick takeaways on the horror genre. They are:

  • Horror movies are the most profitable genre
  • …but also the riskiest genre
  • Quality doesn’t matter all that much
  • Your release will either be very wide or very small
  • Horror audiences are more likely to be working class
  • Let’s dive in and look at each of these findings in detail…

    1. …
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