WGA Writers’ Strike 2017: The numbers behind the demands

You may have heard rumblings in the press about a possible upcoming writers’ strike in Hollywood, and a few readers have been in touch to ask about the debate.  

In today’s article, I will look at some of the key numbers that lie at the heart of the disagreement between the writers and the studios. 

I am going to avoid taking sides in this piece as my aim is to provide useful data for the debate, rather than to argue for one view or another. If I’ve missed anything, or if you want to add your thoughts on the topic, please do so in comments at the bottom of the page. Topics like this can arouse strong feelings on both sides, so I …

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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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Do good movie reviews lead to a higher chance of financial success?

Some producers do all they can to court film critics, under the impression that one positive review in the right journal can herald financial success for their movie.  While other producers scoff at the notion of the all-powerful film critic, believing instead that reviews hold no sway in the actions of movie-goers. 

Bruce Nash from The Numbers and I investigated this very topic, by studying the correlation between the reviews a movie receives and its chance of reaching profitability. Or to put it in the language of the ruthless investor or producer:  “Does it actually matter if critics think my movie is any good?”

We looked at 3,715 feature films released in US cinemas 2000-15 for which we have production budget information (a …

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What percentage of directors are writer-directors?

On the face of it, writing and directing a feature film are two very different jobs.  The clichés are of the introverted writer squirrelling themselves away in a quiet room while the loud, bombastic director strides confidently on set and orders hundreds of people around.  However, when you look a little closer you see that there is plenty of overlap. Both involve the creation of worlds and characters, both require creative imagination to craft stories and both require communicating your vision to the team around you.  

Hollywood is awash with writer-directors, including Peter Jackson, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, Wes Anderson, Joss Whedon and Alfonso Cuarón to name just half a dozen.  But how often is the director of a film also one of the writers? …

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How old are Hollywood screenwriters?

Following on from last week’s look at the average age of Hollywood directors, I thought I would perform the same analysis for Hollywood screenwriters.

The situation for screenwriters is slightly more complicated than directors as films tend to have more writers than directors, and there are many different types of writing credit.  In the past, I have looked at how many people work on a film, and shown that the average Hollywood film has 3.5 writers.  However, this number is slightly suppressed due to the rules of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) which limits how many people can be officially credited.  Hollywood Studios are permitted to credit just three parties with the writing of the screenplay, although each of those parties …

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The scale of Hollywood remakes and reboots

There a number of clear signs you’re getting older; Policemen look younger, music gets louder and more unintelligible and you start complaining more often about “How could they possibly remake that movie?”

Personally, I think part of the outcry against any upcoming Hollywood remake is in fact misplaced anxiety about the passage of time and the ever-closer creeping inevitability of death, but I guess that’s a debate for a different blog. While you’re still around to complain, would you like to see the stats on Hollywood remakes?  ‘Course you would…

  • The percentage of Hollywood remakes has been falling over the past decade
  • In 2005, 17% of top grossing films were Hollywood remakes but by 2014 it was just 5%
  • The fourth horror film ever made was a …
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Hollywood sequels by the numbers

Last week’s article on how original Hollywood movies are had such a great response that I’ve rushed out a sequel featuring many of the same characters.  Not only that, but I’ve twigged that I can split the follow-up into two parts to maximise my audience.  (I may have been studying Hollywood for too long…)

This week I am looking at Hollywood sequels and next week I will be addressing remakes and reboots.  I looked at the 100 highest US grossing films of each of the past 10 years, focusing on Hollywood sequels and prequels.  In summary…

  • In the past 10 years, the number of top grossing films which were sequels has more than doubled
  • In both 2013 and 2014, seven of the top 10 grossing films were either …
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How original are Hollywood movies?

A while ago I looked at the source of Hollywood films, to see what existing material they were adapted from.  It’s a topic I continue to get questions about; specifically about the number of sequels, spinoffs and reboots in Hollywood today.  Therefore, I’ve decided to take a more detailed look at the lineage of the top grossing Hollywood films.

Today’s research looks at the 100 highest grossing films at the US box office in each year between 2005 and 2014 (1,000 films in total). In summary…

  • 39% of top movies released 2005-14 were truly original, i.e. not an adaptation, sequel, spin-off, remake, or other such derivative work
  • The biggest ten movies of each year are rarely truly original (15% of the time, 2005-14).
  • In both 2013 and …
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Film industry press: The most shared articles

Last week I looked at the volume of articles published by major film industry news publications.  This week I have built upon that information to uncover the film industry’s most shared, liked and tweeted articles. I studied all 239,720 articles published by Deadline, the Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire, Screen International and Variety between 2012 and 2014. In summary…

  • Variety has the largest presence on Facebook while the Hollywood Reporter is most shared on Twitter.
  • “Dies” is Variety’s 20th most frequently-used word in headlines, appearing in 2.5% of headlines.
  • In 2014, the Hollywood Reporter received an average of 97 tweets per article.
  • 7% of the Hollywood Reporter headlines included the word ‘exclusive’, compared with 3% at Indiewire.
  • Variety published seven of the top ten most tweeted articles of the film industry press in 2012-14.
  • The …
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