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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    How important are quality and cast for dramas?

    Today, I’m sharing another project I carried out for the American Film Market along with Bruce Nash from The Numbers. In this article, we’re going to look at the performance of dramas, and what it takes for them to be successful.

    The moniker ‘drama’ is often maligned by distribution professionals as not being a real genre.  There is some truth to this claim – many films which lack a clear genre are simply labelled as dramas, and drama is a rather broad classification (i.e. any moment in life can technically be labelled as drama, whereas not every event can be classed as romantic, sci-fi, western etc).

    The main purpose of genre classification is to set the audiences’ expectations.  What will they get in return for …

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    Three ways to increase your chances of success when making a family film

    Four times a year, the American Film Market asks Bruce Nash and I to crunch the numbers on a topic relevant to the segment of their audience that are low budget producers.  In the past, we’ve looked at topics such as what types of independent films make the most money, patterns among breakout hits at different budget ranges ($3m to $10m, $10m to $20m and $20m to $50m), what VOD audiences watch, and which movies travel best.

    This year, they have asked us to focus on four different genres and look at what producers can do to increases their chances of financial success.

    First up – family films.

    The genre classification ‘family’ is an interesting one.  Some genres are defined by their content (such as …

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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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    Patterns among the most profitable movies budgeted $3m to $10m

    Today’s article is another joint project with Bruce Nash from The Numbers.  In a series of research studies for the American Film Market, we looked at what it takes for films to break out at different ends of the indie budget spectrum. We’ve looked at the most profitable low-budget films (with budgets under $3 million), those costing $10 million and $20 million, and also movies made for between $20 million to $50 million.

    Now we will fill in the gap by looking at the most profitable movies budgeted between $3 million and $10 million.

    As before, we reviewed all the films in Nash Information Services’ database in that budget range released between 2000 and 2016. We then identified the sixty most profitable movies, after accounting for …

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    Who are the most prolific people working in Hollywood?

    Last week, I looked at how the composition of crews on Hollywood movies has changed over the years.  This piece led a few people to ask questions on related topics, one of which I will address today.  John asked:”From your datasets can you see which people have worked the most often?”

    To answer the question, I looked at all credits received on the 200 highest-grossing movies at the US box office between 1997 and 2016 (i.e. 4,000 movies).  I then created league tables of the most frequently-credited people in a number of major roles.  Today’s research is only looking at movies, so work on other media is not being counted (i.e. TV shows).

    Most prolific directors in Hollywood

    Let’s start with the highest profile creative role …

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    How has the average Hollywood movie crew changed?

    In the past, I’ve looked at how big a movie crew can get, for both UK films and Hollywood movies. But I was recently asked by a reader how the composition of such crews has changed over time. Which departments are getting larger? Which jobs are on the rise and which are waning?

    To answer this, I looked at the credits of the top 200 US-grossing movies of each of the past 20 years (1997-2016), giving me a dataset of 4,000 movies.

    The big picture

    In the past two decades, the number of crew members on a top-grossing movie has grown by 77%, from 350 in 1997 to 620 in 2016. If we group those crew credits into stages of production, we …

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    How the genre of film production changes around the world

    Last week, I shared the results of a research project I conducted into the genre of global film production.

    Today, I’m drilling into those numbers to look at how filmmaking tastes change between different countries.

    This comes from my dataset of every movie I could find that was produced over the past twenty years – that’s over 117,000 movies from in 151 countries, shot between 1998 to 2017, inclusive.

    Let’s start by breaking down the movies into continent of origin and then later we’ll zoom into the individual nations.

    Which continent’s filmmakers lead each genre

    The chart below shows which continent movies of each genre come from, over the twenty-year period I studied. For example, 50% of all Historical movies made over that time came from European nations.  …

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    Genre trends in global film production

    A few years ago, I looked at what genres are disproportionately popular with cinema audiences around the world.  We learned that Italians enjoyed more comedies, that Asian nations love action, Europeans love drama and that romance burns brightest among Mexican film fans.

    That study looked at how films were received in cinemas, but a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that there was another group of people whose genre tastes we could measure – the filmmakers making the movies.

    So I set about building a database of the movies made in each country and what genre they are.  Now, I’m willing to concede that the scale of the research I did for today’s article was slightly out of proportion with the value of its findings, …

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    The big changes taking place in UK film production

    New figures released last week about UK film production in 2017 have prompted questions from readers about the health and evolving nature of the UK film industry.

    I’m focusing on the production sector because otherwise it would be far too big a topic for one article. I’ve split the key changes into five points (and a bonus one at the end for good measure).

    I’ll start with the happier trends and work towards the less positive changes.

    1. Overall, the production sector is booming

    In just under twenty years, the amount spent on feature films in the UK has ballooned from £389 million in 1998 to £1.9 billion in 2017.  Once we take inflation into account, this is an almost threefold increase. Some of the …

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