My fascination with the movie business may fade, but for the past year or so it’s held more than a share of my attention. I’ve read (and discussed) Edward Jay Epstein’s landmark work, The Hollywood Economist. I’ve followed the money trail of State Film incentives. I’ve even spent a few words on Nicolas Cage and his unique approach to acting.
And then the esteemed Horace Dediu does it again. Shines light in places that, you know, might need some. In a chart-laden screed, Horace digs into the available movie data, reviewing statistics on around 12,000 titles released between 1975 and the present. Impressive in itself.
Most impressive to me are two very telling charts. One we’ll call “what gets made.” The other we’ll call “what makes money.” It is a tale of two cities (apologies to Charles Dickens).
What Gets Made
Drama, Comedy and Romance account for 60% of movies made.
What Makes Money
Action and Adventure are the big money makers.
Dediu attributes this differential to the so-called blockbuster audience. Adolescent males. If we didn’t know it already, Hollywood says a big hello to testosterone. And testosterone says, “hello” right back. Lest there be any doubt, check out the blockbuster release schedule.
Blockbuster Release Schedule (Titles Grossing over $200 M)
Note the emphasis on the U.S. school holiday schedule (summer and winter break).
What do I make of this? Looking narrowly at the Robert Hansen movie, The Frozen Ground, there are several takeaways. As a “thriller,” the film overlaps the action genre. Put that in the plus column. As a film set for a December release, it fits into one of the two prime release slots. Another one for the plus column.
Additionally, two of its stars have teen-cred. Vanessa Hudgens (who plays prostitute Cindy Paulson) and 50 Cent (who plays her pimp). Two more in the plus column.
Having Nicolas Cage and John Cusack on board doesn’t hurt things, either. Hey, this Frozen Ground thing could be a success.
I was told early on that producer Randall Emmett knows his business. That becomes more obvious by the minute. Looking back, it perhaps explains (in part) why there was so much pressure to sign an Option Agreement for “Butcher, Baker” in November-December of 2010: for Frozen Ground to make a December 2012 release, things needed to line up on schedule. It is, after all, a high-stakes business. Ah, the joys of hindsight.