Genre and Hollywood studios, 1991 to 2010

Historically, particular movie studios were often associated with a specific genre of filmmaking as a strategy of differentiating their product in the marketplace (e.g. MGM and musicals, Universal and horror films, Warner Bros. and gangster films), whilst also ensuring that their product was sufficiently diverse to mitigate changes in audience taste and fashion. Table 1 lists the number of films in each of nine genres released by Hollywood studios that were ranked in the top 50 films at the US box office from 1991 to 2010, inclusive.This gives a total sample of 1000 films. See here for more on the sample used. This table is quite large, and can be seen better by opening it in a new window.

Table 1 Number of films in each genre released by Hollywood studios, 1991 to 2010 (minimum of 20 releases)

It is clear from the data that there is no evidence of genre specialisation among five of the six major studios (Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros.). Fox has released fewer crime/thriller films than the other major studios, while releasing a greater number of fantasy/science fiction films. Paramount and DreamWorks have co-released 10 family films, which accounts for their number of releases in this category being lower for Paramount than for the other major studios. The exception for the major studios is Buena Vista, its output dominated by and dominating the genre of family films. Of the 162 films released by the studio to make it into the top 50 between 1991 and 2010, 44% were family films; and this one firm accounts for 43% of the 164 films of this genre in the sample. This result is unsurprising, since Buena Vista is the releasing arm of the Walt Disney Corporation and reflects the corporate image of that company as a producer of safe, wholesome, family entertainment (Wasko 2001). Buena Vista has also diversified its product and the frequency with which it has released other types of film is generally consistent with the other majors, although it has released fewer crime/thriller films compared to most of the other studios.

The six majors account for a total of 778 films in the sample; and many of the smaller firms listed operate within their orbit. New Line was a part of the Time-Warner media conglomerate from 1993 until it merged with Warner Bros. in 2008; and DreamWorks has entered into production and/or distribution arrangements with Paramount and Disney. The only film amongst the highest grossing in this twenty year period not connected to one of the major media conglomerates is Newmarket’s The Passion of The Christ (2004), which was produced and distributed outside the traditional Hollywood mechanisms (Maresco 2004). Looking at the smaller firms in Table 1, we see that New Line’s output is dominated by comedy films, although its most profitable films were the Lord of the Rings trilogy; while half of MGM’s limited output is accounted for by action/adventure (and four of these five films are from the James Bond franchise), comedy, and crime/thriller films. Few films from the action/adventure and fantasy/science fiction genres are produced by firms other than the major studios. The budgets for these types of films tend to be higher than those of other genres, and this level of capital investment is typically beyond the scope of all but the largest studios.


Maresco PA 2004 Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ: market segmentation, mass marketing and promotion, and the internet, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 8:

Wasko J 2001 Understanding Disney: The Manufacture of Fantasy. Malden MA: Blackwell.

About Nick Redfern

I am an independent academic with over 15 years experience teaching film in higher education in the UK. I have taught film analysis, film industries, film theories, film history, science fiction at Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Central Lancashire, and Leeds Trinity University, where I was programme leader for film from 2016 to 2020. My research interests include computational film analysis, horror cinema, sound design, science fiction, film trailers, British cinema, and regional film cultures.

Posted on August 4, 2011, in Film Industry, Film Studies, Genre, Hollywood and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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