Category Archives: Motion Picture Production

Genre and European box office, 2006-2010

UPDATE: This post has now been superseded by a revised version that cleans up the data and extends the analysis and should be referred to in place of this. See here for the new version.

To round off a series of posts on genre and box office this August, I look at the frequency of different genres in five European countries – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK – to see what we can learn about different national markets.

For each of the five countries, I accessed the data from Box Office Mojo for the top 50 grossing films in each year from 2006 to 2010, inclusive. (For some reason, Box Office Mojo lists some films twice in the same year if they have slightly different titles; and I removed these duplicates to replace hem with the next film in the box office rankings). This gives a total sample size of 250 films for each country, and a total of 1250 data points overall. Obviously this does not mean we have data on 1250 films because many of the films reached the top 50 in more than one country. Overall, this sample has data on 596 different films.

Usually I use a system of nine categories for sorting films according to genre; but due to the fact that the number of horror films reached double figures for Spain and the UK only (with 11 and 10 films, respectively) and were very small in number for the other countries (France = 2, Germany = 7, and Italy =6), I have put this films into the category of ‘Other.’ Obviously the fact that horror infrequently reaches the top of the box office charts is interesting in itself, as is the French aversion to horror.

The eight categories used are, therefore, Action/Adventure, Comedy, Crime/Thriller, Drama, Family, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Romance, and Other. Alongside Horror films, Other also includes Westerns, War films, Musicals (including concert films), and Documentaries.

First, we look at the frequency of films occurring in each country in each genre (Table 1).

Table 1 Genre frequency in the top 50 grossing films in five countries, 2006-2010 (NB: the Total column to the right is the number of data points for each genre and NOT the number of different films)

Overall, the number of films from each genre to make it into the top 50 films in the five years covered is similar in each country. To test if the proportion of films from each genre was the same in the five countries, I performed a chi-square test of homogeneity (corrected α = 0.0131, based on 8 tests and an experiment-wise error rate of α = 0.10). These results are presented in Table 2, and show that the only statistically significant difference occurs for the comedy genre. Post-hoc analysis of the adjusted standardized residuals (based on a two-tailed critical z-value of 2.5596) revealed that this is due to Spain having fewer comedy films than expected (z = -3.6880), but the effect size for omnibus test is small (V = 0.1122).

Table 2 Chi-square test of homogeneity for the proportion of films in each genre in five countries

With the exception of the missing comedy films in Spain, these five different markets appear to otherwise very similar for each genre. However, this does not mean that audiences in these five countries are necessarily watching the same films.

To find out if the same films were making it into the top 50, I counted the number of times a film featured in the list of films for each genre. For example, if a film only made it into the top 50 in Germany (e.g. Elementarteilchen (Atomised)) then it would appear only in the list of drama films only once, while a film that made it into the top fifty in all five countries (such as one of the Harry Potter films) would appear in the list of Fantasy/Science Fiction films five times. This is a somewhat crude measure, but it does allow us to see some basic commonalities and differences. This information is presented in Table 3.

Table 3 Frequency with which individual films make the top 50 highest grossing films in five countries from 2006 to 2010 (NB: the Total column to the right is the number of different films in each genre in the overall sample)


Table 3 reveals three distinct patterns:

  • Action/Adventure films tend to feature in the lists for four or five different countries (59%). This is the only genre for which this is the case.

Generally, these films a big-budget Hollywood franchise films such as The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fast and Furious, Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and the like. Just less than a quarter of these films feature in only one list, but even these tend to be Hollywood films (e.g. Watchmen or Resident Evil: Extinction*).

* Resident Evil: Afterlife did much better though, ranking everywhere except the UK.

  • The genres of Comedy, Crime/Thriller, Drama, and Romance and dominated by films that appear in one list only.

If Hollywood is able to dominate the global market with its action movies, then it is much less successful when it comes to these four genres. Comedy, in particular, seems to be very different with 78% of films appearing in the list for only one country. Some of these are individual Hollywood films that have performed well in one country not the others; but many are films that only feature in the list of the country in which they were produced. For example, the series of Christmas comedy films from Italy directed by Neri Parenti has performed exceptionally well in that country: one film has made the top 5 grossing films in each year in the sample, with Natale in crociera (2007) and Natale a Rio (2008) both taking the number 1 ranking. However, these films have not made any impact at the box office in any of the other European countries included here. Four comedy films made it into list of each country (Burn After Reading, Mr. Bean’s Holiday, The Devil Wears Prada, and The Hangover).

The Crime/Thriller genre features several big-budget Hollywood films that were successful in all five countries (The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, No Country for Old Men, The Bourne Ultimatum, etc), but again these five markets are more different than they are similar. Some films that appear only once are Hollywood films (e.g. The Taking of Pelham 123, State of Play – neither of which are as good as the originals); but most are successful only in the country in which they originate. So Un prophète and Ne le dis à personne feature in the French box office charts only; and Gomorra and Milano-Palermo: il ritorno only in the Italian charts.

Only a few drama films appear in the top 50s of all countries (Australia, Blood Diamond, Brokeback Mountain, Shutter Island, and The Pursuit of Happyness), while 73% feature in one list only. Romance films show the same pattern, with only seven (13%) films featuring five times (and three of these are from the Twilight franchise), and 65% of films featuring once only. The drama and romance films that appear once tend to feature only in the country from which they originate, but when drama films do cross borders they go between the continental countries and not tot the UK. For example, Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) features in every country except the UK. There does not appear to be the same level of cross-over for the romance films, and when a film from this category appears more than once it tends to be a Hollywood film.

Laughter and love do not apparently travel well – in the cinema at least. And nor do crime and drama. The five markets are much less homogenized in these categories, unlike the Action/Adventure films where they are much more consistent in terms of the films in circulation. This clearly raises question about the extent to which we can speak of the Americanization or globalization of European cinema, as it appears to affect some categories of films more than others.

Finally, the third set of genres:

  • The genres of Family and Fantasy/Science Fiction are split between films that feature in one list only and films that feature in the box office charts of all five countries.

For the family genre, 41% of films feature once and 39% of films feature five times. For the Fantasy/Science Fiction films, the equivalent statistics are 42% and 29%. This suggests that there is a divide in the market for these films. The majority of the films in these two genres are Hollywood blockbusters no matter how many time they occur. But we do see a clear split between films that are broadly successful against films that do not travel across borders so well; especially when it comes to animated family films that perform well in all markets (e.g. Cars, Flushed Away, Ice Age: The Meltdown) alongside several European animated films that appear – yet again – only in the country of their production (e.g. Konferenz der Tiere in Germany, El ratón Pérez in Spain, or Azur et Asmar in France). Separating out the UK is much harder as many of the Hollywood films are produced here anyway.

As Other is a category comprising films from several other genres it makes little sense to speak of trends, but it is interesting to note that the three films that feature in all five lists are High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Inglorious Basterds, and Mamma Mia!

As I said before, this is a crude way of measuring differences in audience taste, and I won’t have a much richer picture until I start to compare the box office gross of films in each country directly. But what the information in the above tables provides is a means of describing the national specificity of film a markets based on the types of in circulation and which achieve the highest box office rankings. There are many similarities between these five countries, but we should want to know why the Spanish do not go and see as many comedy films as the British, Germans, French, and Italians? Why do we all seem to watch the same Action/Adventure films but not the same Drama films? Perhaps the specificity of a national cinema is only evident in some categories of films and not others; or Hollywood has cornered the market on such blockbusters to the exclusion of all other producers. Why, if the audiences in these five countries are watching mostly different Romance films, is the proportion of films from this genre in the 250 films for each country so similar? Is there a common underlying structure to European film a markets? Why did the British not pay to see Resident Evil: Afterlife unlike the rest of Europe? And where are the French horror films?

The DCMS Film Policy Review I

This week the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport published the latest review of film policy in the UK. The report is titled A Future for British Film: It Begins with the Audience, and you can access it here. This week’s post covers just a few first impressions I have formed having read the report once. A more detailed and more considered reflection on the issues raised will have to wait for a couple of weeks.

This is the first wide-ranging report on film policy in the UK since A Bigger Picture was published in 1998, though there have been numerous reports covering  a broad range of topics in the past 14 years. This report should of course been undertaken before the dismantling of the UK Film Council because now it is a case of tailoring policy to the institutions we have rather than being able to flexibly adapt to new demands. And it is the new that wrecks policy maker’s fun. A Bigger Picture was almost immediately rendered obsolete by the arrival of digital technology. 3D was old technology in 1998, and now its at the top of the box office charts.

So, first impressions.

1. I like the demand-side approach rather than the focus on production typical of these sorts of reports. The report doesn’t ignore production, but the re-orientation of film policy away from ‘lets produce more British films that on-one will see’ to ‘let’s get people watching films the British films that are available’ is much needed. British film production has been reasonably healthy since the mid-1990s (at least compared to the dark days 1980s), but a long-standing problem is getting screen time in a multiplex dominated market. There’s no point making films people can’t see and there’s no point in making MORE films can’t see which has been UK film policy since 1985. There’s always the possibility that some more British films will make money and so reduce their demands on lottery funding.

The only concern is that focussing resources on independent and specialised film will produce limited benefits from a lot of investment. Audiences for these types of films are smaller than audiences for mainstream cinema, and so there may not be much growth in audiences to be had. The report says that it is important to increase audience choice, and who would disagree with that. But how do you measure the potential for audience growth of specialised films? How do you judge how much money to invest in developing this audience given that audience growth might be quite small? And what if the audience doesn’t want to watch these films?

And how do you get cinema chains to stop showing crap like Green Lantern? Especially when it turns out the average occupancy rate of cinema auditoria in the UK is 20 per cent! Solving the problem of too many bad Hollywood films on British cinema screens would go much further than anything the BFI could ever do. The problem of release windows is recognised in the report and reforming this aspect of the UK film sector in a distribution-led industry will have more impact than simply focussing on production. This is to be applauded. But release windows are determined in Hollywood by multinational corporations who have the power to dictate terms to exhibitors, and why should they care about a policy framework that offers no advantage to them? US producers come to the UK for the quality of the filmmakers, the facilities, and the tax incentives. Where are the incentives for distribution that will make them care?

2. I also like the commitment to ensuring the important role of the BFI Research and Statistics Unit in recommendation 53 (see below), though the suggestion the BFI establishes a ‘research and knowledge’ does raise the questions, doesn’t the RSU already exist and isn’t already fulfilling this function? I’m also a little confused by the recommendation

the BFI be designated a ‘producer of official statistics’ under the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, as was the UK Film Council up until 2011.

Wasn’t this function taken over by the BFI? And if not, why not?

But a revved up RSU means more statistical fun for me, and that’s something to look forward to.

3. I don’t like the make up of the panel that produced the report:

  • Rt Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Chairman)
  • Will Clarke, Independent film distributor, founder and former CEO, Optimum Releasing
  • Lord Julian Fellowes, Oscar® winning writer and actor
  • Matthew Justice, UK film producer and Managing Director, Big Talk
  • Michael Lynton, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • Tim Richards, Chief Executive, Vue Entertainment
  • Tessa Ross, CBE, Controller of Film and Drama, Channel 4
  • Libby Savill, Head of Film and Television, Olswang LLP
  • Iain Smith, OBE, film producer and Chair, the British Film Commission Advisory Board

There is, of course, no reason why any of these people should not have been involved in the review process, but who is missing from this list?

That’s right, academics. There is no one from film studies specialising in film industries, film policy, or British cinema; and there is no economist, sociologist, or geographer specialising in film/media/creative/cultural industries.

There is a great deal of research on the film industry in the UK and yet very little of this is cited by the report. The report contains a list of references 108 references, including a handful to Margaret Dickinson and Sylvia Harvey, Rob Cheek, Maud Mansfield, and Joe Lampel. (None of these references are properly referenced. If this were submitted by a student you would fail it on grounds of not having a proper bibliography. It really is awful). There are no references to the wider body of research of the film industry in the UK, and this is curious because one of the recommendations addresses precisely this issue.

53. The Panel notes the need for a strong evidence base for film policy and recommends the BFI establishes a ‘Research and Knowledge’ function to a) collaborate with industry and stakeholders to generate robust information and data on which to base policy interventions, b) assist in the design of BFI policy and funding interventions from the outset to produce learning that can inform future policy, c) actively disseminate results and learning from funding interventions, and d) over time build and maintain a valuable and accessible knowledge base for the benefit of the public, the BFI, Government, industry, academia and all other stakeholders in film.

It seems odd to recommend that we need a strong evidence base when the existing available research is largely ignored. This problem was raised at the symposium on research and policy making I attended last October (you can read about it here), and it’s nice to see the above recommendation in the report as it means there is a greater chance progress will be made in this area. But this type of report is precisely the sort of situation in which this type of research should have been used, and it would have been nice to see the panel take the opportunity to do just that. Otherwise, what’s the point in doing research?

But what I really don’t like about recommendation 53 is that it envisages academia as a consumer of data produced by the BFI’s ‘research and knowledge’ function rather than being fully integrated into the policy making framework. Academics shouldn’t be sat on the sidelines of film policy. Any future panel reporting on film policy should include academics among its membership – if only to recommend the relevant research outputs to the rest of the panel. It is the BFI’s responsibility to make sure this is achieved sooner rather than not at all. Who else do they think is going create and fulfil the ‘research and knowledge’ function?

It seems odd to say it, but I think the case for film studies could be put to the BFI more strongly.

4. Finally, this report presents a great deal of statistical information and therefore makes the assumption that its readership will be statistically literate enough to understand it. I raised the issue of statistical literacy at last year’s symposium but didn’t get much of response. Given the use of tables, graphs (which I do NOT like), and numerical summaries in this report it is not an issue than can be ignored. The place of statistical literacy in film studies needs to be addressed by the BFI, and I will have more to say on this topic over the next few weeks.


UK Film Policy

Yesterday I attended a symposium at NESTA on the relationship between research and policy making for film co hosted by the University of Hertforshire, Available Light Advisory, and the BFI. A detailed review of the event will have to wait for a later post, but until then here are some papers on the British film industry and the policy environment in which it has operated over the  past decade and a half.

As ever, the version of the paper linked to may not be the final version that was published.

Adams J 2011 UK film: new directions in the glocal era, Journal of Media Practice 12 (2): 111-124. (NB: the link takes you to JMP Screenworks).

As the British Film Institute (BFI) takes over responsibility for film policy and lottery funding from the UK Film Council and the Government announces the UK Film Policy Review, this article argues that film policy requires a fundamental change of direction for the 21st Century. First, it proposes that the concept of a UK film ‘industry’ should be radically redefined in response to the complex and diverse digital production models developing both regionally and globally. Second, that the best way to nurture and promote homegrown talent is through an integrated approach to production, distribution, exhibition and education. Third, public funding for film (other than tax breaks and incentives for incoming production) should be directed away from the mainstream to support public-private sector creative partnerships in the regions, in line with an emerging politics of localism. In an age of cross-border media flows, the paper proposes a holistic strategy for UK film based on dispersed creative hubs with global reach, with a much greater role for Creative England than is currently envisaged. Examples in the paper are mainly drawn from activities in one of Creative England’s newly designated regions (‘the Bristol hub’).

Blair H, Culkin N, and Randle K 2004 From London to Los Angeles: a comparison of local labour market processes in the US and UK film industries, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 14 (4): 619-633.

Addressing the issue of the embeddedness of labour markets, this paper compares the processes of finding employment in the film industry within two local labour markets. Drawing on studies of freelance film crew in the London (UK) and Los Angeles (US), the paper concludes that the importance of social networks in job mobility in both contexts is a consequence of common production structures. However that common labour market practice varies in each geographical space as industry processes and structures are mediated by local institutional contexts.

 Garnham N 2005 From cultural to creative industries: an analysis of the implications of the “creative industries” approach to arts and media policy making in the United Kingdom, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 11 (1): 15-29.

This article analyses the cultural policy implications in the United Kingdom of a shift in terminology from cultural to creative industries. It argues that the use of the term “creative industries” can only be understood in the context of information society policy. It draws its political and ideological power from the prestige and economic importance attached to concepts of innovation, information, information workers and the impact of information and communication technologies drawn from information society theory. This sustains the unjustified claim of the cultural sector as a key economic growth sector within the global economy and creates a coalition of disparate interests around the extension of intellectual property rights. In the final analysis, it legitimates a return to an artistcentred, supply side defence of state cultural subsidies that is in contradiction to the other major aim of cultural policy – wider access.

Humphreys P 2008 An examination of the preservation of cultural policy toolkits at the national level: the French and UK cases, 58th Political Studies Association Annual Conference: Democracy, Governance and Conflict: Dilemmas of Theory and Practice, 1-3 April 2008, Swansea.

This paper examines the impact of globalization, new media and deregulatory pressures on the ‘cultural policy toolkits’ for the television sector of France and the UK. It is concerned with regulation intended to promote cultural diversity in the media, namely public service broadcasting, media ownership rules, and culturally protectionist measures such as subsidies and programme quotas. It explores whether there is evidence of a (de)regulatory competition (‘racing to the bottom’), and alternatively whether there has been any adjustment of regulatory standards upwards. The picture is mixed. There is evidence of competitiveness motivated deregulation of media ownership rules in both cases. Other than that though, the countries’ cultural policy toolkits appear robust and demonstrate a striking degree of path dependent policy-making. Some aspects of UK television policy are certainly redolent of deregulatory competition and the UK approach has progressively relieved the private sector of the kind of regulatory burdens imposed by the French approach. By contrast, the French adaptation of their system of programme quotas and subsidies to the digital age could be seen as upward regulation. France, however, remains a paradoxical case. It exhibits a particularly strong political commitment to a distinctive and elaborate regulatory and interventionist cultural policy toolkit. It has championed a global struggle to defend national cultural identities in the face of the domination of American production. Yet, public service television and national television production are weak in comparison with its more liberal neighbour.

Magor M and Schlesinger P 2009 ‘For this relief much thanks:’ taxation, film policy and the UK government, Screen 50 (3): 299-317.

In 2006, the Treasury introduced a new Film Tax Credit for British productions. Fiscal incentives in the form of tax credits are now regarded as fundamental to the sustainability of the British film industry. In addition to benefiting indigenous filmmaking, an attractive tax credit structure is seen as promoting inward investment, chiefly from the USA, and is seen as important for maintaining the work force and organisational capacity in the British film industry. Securing the continuity of the skills base is at the heart of the UK Government’s drive to make the ‘creative economy’ better fitted for global competition. However, in that broader context, film has been – and remains – a special case, as it is not presently Government creative economy policy to use fiscal measures for other industries. We argue that in seeking solutions to longstanding problems of ‘sustainability’, contemporary UK policy is conditioned by its long history of economic intervention in film production – and has been an important precursor of today’s creative industries policy. Furthermore, in current global conditions, it is crucial to consider the fundamental cross-currents set in train by the competing demands of US inward investment and EU regulation. By undertaking interviews with key players as well as examining evidence in the public domain, this article analyses the complex politics that has shaped the implementation of this policy. We argue that film policy research needs the added depth that such sociological analysis brings to the table. In particular, this empirical approach gives insights into how the low politics of lobbying and inter-departmental rivalry shape present policy outcomes.

Redfern N 2007 Defining British cinema: transnational and territorial film policy in the United Kingdom, Journal of British Cinema and Television 4 (1): 150-164.

Since 1995, film policy in the United Kingdom has comprised two strands: selling the UK as a ‘film hub’ of locations, skills and services to the international film industry, and the emergence of a different kind of institutional intervention geared towards nurturing regional film industries and regional film cultures. In this contribution to the debate about film policy in Britain, I want to explore the relationship between the transnational and the territorial in British film policy since the mid-1990s. I will argue that policy makers in the United Kingdom have sought to construct a British national cinema through encouraging productions to come to the United Kingdom by enhancing the locational non-substitutability of the British film industry, and that these functions have been devolved to the Regional Screen Agencies since 2000. The British film industry that is emerging from this process is a hybrid space of interactions between a trans- national film industry which crosses national boundaries, and a highly territorialised national film industry which is increasingly organised at the regional level. In this contribution, I will describe three possible interactions between the transnational and the territorial in contemporary British cinema.

Redfern N 2010 Connecting the regional and the global in the UK film industry, Transnational Cinemas 1 (2) : 145-160.

Film policy in the United Kingdom is comprised of two complementary strands: the development of regional production clusters and the positioning of the United Kingdom as a film hub in the global film industry. This article examines the relationship between the regional, national and global scales in feature film production in three UK regions Northern Ireland, Scotland and the South West of England from 2004 to 2006. The results indicate that connections between the regions of the United Kingdom and the global film industry are limited, and that where they do exist these connections are either directly to or mediated through London, which functions as the dominant centre of distribution and finance and therefore decision-making in the UK film industry. Northern Ireland, by virtue of its cultural and economic relationship to the Republic of Ireland, stands out as a region in which its connections to other major decision-making centres are as important as its connections to London. The results suggest that while UK film policy has sought to redistribute the productive capacity of the industry, the autonomy of regional production centres remains limited.

Pratt AC and Gornostaeva G 2009 The governance of innovation in the film and television industry: a case study of London, UK, in  AC Pratt and P Jeffcutt (eds.) Creativity, Innovation and the Cultural Economy. London: Routledge: 119-136.

The focus of this chapter is innovation and creativity in the film and television industries in London. One might expect to observe, in the case of film and television industries which encompass some of the most socially and organisationally embedded organisations that have embraced digitisation, a clearer case of the impact of digitisation in on innovation. However, it is also good to adopt a cautious approach to the role of technology or the necessity of organisational and/or technological convergence that may follow.

It is possible to make a film, or a TV programme, on a laptop or a mobile phone; but, such practices are marginal. Where they are adopted their use is commonly strategic, in order to achieve other organisational aims such as simple cost reduction or novelty. The film and television industries are ‘poster children’ for digitisation and innovation; the question is, whether such changes are superficial, in the sense of new delivery systems for the same old production model, or, a substantial transformation of the process. Complex regulatory structures and market structures mean that innovation is a more organic and systemic process rather than the ‘big bang’ that is it commonly represented as. In this chapter we argue for the need to account for the complex interrelationship of technologies, organisation and regulation. Moreover, that the roles of technology (digitization), organisation (the fragmented small firms), and governance (deregulation) cannot be generalised and will be resolved, necessarily, in particular spaces and times resulting in unique locational outcomes.

If one examines the UK FTV at a macro-scale considerable success of both TV sales and film production (receipts) can be identified both relative to the size of the UK economy, and by comparison with other economies. How do we begin to understand this relative success? One answer might be innovation or improved competitiveness; however, arguably such ‘catch alls’ disguise as much as they reveal. This chapter approaches the problem by shifting analytic attention to the micro-scale and to organisational concerns in order to explore ways in which similar technologies or innovations may produce quite different industry outcomes in terms of practice. The chapter is structured around this argument; we begin by prefacing this with a discussion of innovation and creativity and next elaborating how this is worked through in the case of the film and television industries.

Finally, here are some recent reports on the UK film industry:

Mansfield M 2009 A Report on the British Film Industry for Shadow DCMS.

Culture, Media, and Sport Committee, The British Film Industry, HC, 667-I, 9 September 2003.

Select Committee on Communications, The British Film and Television Industries – Decline or Opportunity?, HL, 37-I and 37-II, 25 January 2011. The two volumes of this report include the summry and conclusions in part I and the transcripts of the hearings in part II.

The BFI and ‘Opening Our Eyes’

Last Friday the BFI launched its report on the cultural contribution of the cinema to the UK. I was unable to attend the launch, but the report is no available online here.

The motivation for this report is partly to do what is says and explore the contribution to British cinema, but it is also necessary to justify the UK’s economic film policy. Under EU law, financial support in the form of tax relief or lottery funding can only be provided for the representation of regional and national cultures and NOT for competitive economic advantage. Therefore, by establishing the importance of the cinema to British cultural life everyone gets to pretend that economic film policy in the UK is cultural and not economic at all.

Leaving that collective self-delusion aside, let’s focus on the cultural aspects of the report. The problem here is that we have what is largely a marketing report that does not really address the question of ‘cultural contribution.’ Films, we are told, are one of the ‘most popular entertainment and leisure interests,’ but popularity is not a measure of cultural contribution. One of overriding problems I have with this report is the lack of detail. The list of films that are often mentioned as having a ‘significant effect on society or attitudes in the UK’ is frequently used as a basis for drawing conclusions about the relevance of the cinema in British cultural life but this effect isn’t qualified beyond the personal anecdotes of some of the interviewees. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the number of interviewees is small: ten paired interviews were conducted giving a sample size of 20 participants from major cities in Scotland (Glasgow) or England (Manchester and London). Perhaps no-one in the UK lives east of the Pennines (thereby plunging me into a severe existential crisis); or perhaps no-one in Wales or Northern Ireland goes to the cinema. I recognise that measuring how a film affects society is difficult, but then this at the core of what the report is trying to do and it never really achieves it. We can certainly see how Cathy Come Home affected the UK, leading to the founding of Shelter; but what was the ‘significant effect’ of Trainspotting? This is never explained. I also recognise that it is a lengthy and costly process, but if you’re going to justify national film policy based on research it should be national research.

One aspect that has been commented upon in a number of news articles based on this report (and which I therefore assume was part of a press release) is that people are more interested in the cinema than they are in religion. Specifically, 32% percent of respondents indicated they were interested in religion compared to the 84% who were interested in the cinema. The question we really want to ask here is why religion was included in the survey at all. Does the BFI think that religion is a form of popular entertainment and leisure interest comparable to the cinema? In what ways is an interest in films comparable to an interest in religion? Surely we cannot be expected to interpret this as meaning that the people of the UK are 2.5 times more interested in the cinema than religion, because this is how it has been presented in reporting typical of the standard you can expect from the British press. This is really a measure of popularity and not a measure of contribution at all: the contribution of the Church of England to the cultural life of the UK is far greater than that of the cinema, even if no one appears to be interested in it any more. I may be an atheist but, dear God, this was a stupid question to ask.

A further confusing statement is that a ‘strong interest in film correlates with a stronger than average interest in many other forms of leisure and cultural pursuit,’ because no correlation coefficient, correspondence analysis, correlation matrix, or any other statistic is presented. Correlation is a statistical term, and in the context of this report that presents such a large amount of data in terms of graphs, percentages, and other measures, it has no meaning. Nor is there any evidence presented to link strong interest in the cinema, strong interest in other arts, and increased levels of participation. It is simply asserted that

higher interest in a range of other social and cultural activities tends to follow through into higher levels of activity (Figure 5), with more people very interested in film also going more often to the theatre, concerts, pubs and clubs than those with no interest in film.

The reference to Figure 5 leads us only to a series of bar charts that present frequencies and not correlations. This is just poor research, and a better approach would have been to perform a correspondence analysis on this data. (This is exactly what Pierre Bourdieu does in Distinction to answer exactly the same sort of questions). If nothing else, this would have presented us with only a single graph to deal with rather than thirteen separate bar charts.

The same is true of the words associated with different forms of entertainment (Figure 11). The endless bar charts have by now become somewhat tiring and the plots of the first and second principal and first and third principal axes of the correspondence analysis of this data would have made life so much easier (Figure A). To interpret these plots, points in the same data set that are near each other have similar profiles in terms of the attributes assigned to them while points in the same data set that are distant have different attribute profiles; and points in different sets that lie away from the origin and in the same direction are related. In both plots we see that film (FIL) lies along the same direction as escapism (ESC), and so the cinema is strongly correlated with this attribute.

A1: Dimensions 1 and 2

A2: Dimensions 1 and 3

Figure A Biplots of the correspondence between entertainment/leisure activities and attributes associated with them, based on percentages in the BFI ‘Opening Our Eyes’ report. For the detailed numerical summary of the analysis see here: BFI CA Summary.

As we would expect, pubs/clubs (PUB) and dining out are similar and news (NEW) is strongly correlated with the attribute ‘informative’ (INF). Interestingly, art galleries and museums (GAL) lies along the same axis as exciting (EXC) in both plots, and playing sport (SPP) produces similar results to going to the theatre (THE) but watching sport (SPW) does not. Also, pubs/clubs seem to correspond with thought-provoking (THO).

The attributes do appear to spread out into a number of subsets. Emotion (EMO) and Inspiration (INS) appear to be related, as do exciting and informative. Relaxing (RLX), entertainment (ENT), escapism, and thought-provoking appear to have profiles more similar with another than with the other four attributes. This relationship is apparent in both plots. Television (TEL) appears to be associated with no particular attribute, contributing nothing to the variation in dimension 3.

Note that religion (REL) in the first plot is unrelated to the profiles of the other forms of entertainment and leisure activity and contributes nothing to the variation of the second plot (CTR = 0.00), and it would be better if this category had not been included in the survey at all.

A further problem arises when we look at the section on what films people are watching. Blockbusters emerge as the most frequently watched type of films, but as these types of films dominate the UK exhibition market what else did you expect?

The information on the factors that people use to decide on what to go and see is much more useful. There is a fairly large body of literature on this topic for Hollywood cinema (and you can find some information on this topic here), but there is a lack of research in this area for the UK (but see here). This is also the case for sources of information on films on release. Hopefully, this information will lead researchers to explore these areas in more depth, because we really know very little about film audiences in the UK compared to what we know about the US.

The section on opinions about the proportion of films distributed in the UK on specific subjects (Figure 17) can be ignored. I don’t quite see the point of the question about whether there are too many films about homeless people – this seems a needlessly specific question that doesn’t really have anything to with the cinema. I’ve never seen a British film about a quantity surveyor, but they didn’t ask about that. How would making films about the homeless contribute to British culture? If this were to prompt filmmakers to start making films about the homeless, asking the question again would increase the number of responses for too many as the public becomes bored by a glut of such films. This part of the survey does not appear to take into account the films currently on release that would influence the respondents. It is a silly question that tells us nothing about anything.

More interesting is the revelation about how audiences perceive stories as being related to national identity rather than the source of the production:

Respondents saw films with British stories set in the UK as close to ‘entirely British’, even if they were partly produced or financed from the USA. Films about non-British people set outside the UK were seen as being mainly of another nationality. This is illustrated at the borderline by Slumdog Millionaire which, though an independent British film, was seen as being slightly more of ‘another nationality’ (Figure 19). Some interviewees saw it as a British film set in a non-UK location.

Now this is interesting information that can make a substantive contribution to the study of British national cinema and will, I’m sure, feature in many books and articles on the subject. The analysis based on the seven-point rating scale (Figures 19 and 20) is interesting but I have problems with the statistic used: the average position on the scale appears to be the mean and the use of a continuous measure for ordinal data is problematic. Either the mode or the median could be more appropriate because we cannot be sure that respondents interpreted the phrases used (‘entirely British’) in the same way or that the differences between the categories are equal. (There is no reason to assume that responses to this scale would be normally distributed so some additional justification for relying on the central limit theorem should have been provided, particularly given the possibility of central tendency bias).That said, the differences in the score between Slumdog Millionaire on the one hand and St. Trinian’s and The Full Monty are the real gem in this report. As scholars of British cinema we should be exploring this in great depth.

The section on the regions of the UK brings us back to the endless bar charts, and as before a different approach might have reduced the cognitive burden and eye strain on the reader. Generally, these results reflect the responses given to a question asked as part of the 19th British Social Attitudes Report published in 2002, which found that regional identity in England increased with distance from the capital and a high level of identification with the metropolis in London. This would explain why people in the North of England, the North West, and Yorkshire and Humberside want to see more films based in their regions relative to the regions in the south and the east. It is surprising to see that the percentages for ‘Too many’ and ‘About the right amount’ for the South West are consistent with East Anglia and the South East, as this region tends to have a relatively higher sense of regional identity. This is an interesting result that could be followed up.

Overall, this report is just like every other report produced by an official body that you’ve read: relentlessly upbeat, and riddled with oddities of design and analysis. There are some really interesting points to be found, and if this report is going to make a real contribution to our understanding of British film culture it will be as a starting point for researchers to try to get behind the data.

Finally, the best news of all: the detailed responses and the full data sets are being made available by the BFI, and can be accessed here. This means hours of endless fun of doing your own analysis on the data.

References

Heath A, Rothon C, and Jarvis L 2002  ‘English to the Core?’ in A Park, J Curtice, K Thomson, L Jarvis, and C Bromley (eds.) British Social Attitudes: The 19th Report. London: Sage: 169-184.

Genre trends at the US box office, 1991 to 2010

UPDATE: A revised version of this article has been published as Genre trends at the US box office, 1991 to 2010, European Journal of American Culture 31 (2) 2012: 145-167. DOI: 10.1386/ejac.31.2.145_1.

To carry on the theme of some recent posts, this week I present the first draft of  analysis of the genre trends at the US box office over the past twenty years.

The pdf can be accessed here: Nick Redfern – Genre trends at the US box office

Abstract

This paper examines genre trends in the top 50 grossing films at the US box office each year from 1991 to 2010, focussing on the frequency and rank of different genres, the box office gross and release patterns of films in different genres, and the release profile of Hollywood studios. The results show a narrowing of the range of genres at the highest rankings, with fantasy/science fiction movies coming to dominate at the expense of comedy, crime/thriller, and drama films. There are also marginal increases in action/adventure and family films.   Analysis of the opening and total gross for each film reveals that different genres are characterized by different release patterns, and noted the importance of awards in contributing to the box office gross of drama films. With one notable exception, there is no evidence of genre specialization among film studios in contemporary Hollywood cinema.

US Gross Ratios by Genre, 1991 to 2010

Recently I have been looking at the breakdown of the top 50 films at the US box office in each year from 1991 to 2010 by genre. I’ll have more to say on this topic in a couple of weeks, but I have looked at several different variables and have had to excise some aspects from the paper I was writing. This means I have some graphs left over – one of the most interesting of which is presented below. This boxplot shows the distribution of the ratio of the opening weekend gross to the total gross for the 1000 films in my sample. The box office data this graph is based on has been inflation adjusted to 2010 dollars. ‘Other’ includes genres that were too infrequent to be included separately, and is comprised of documentaries, musicals, war films, and westerns. (Actually this graph includes data from only 999 films, as one of the documentaries included in the category ‘other’ has no reported opening weekend gross). The summary statistics are given in Table 1 below.

Figure 1 Opening/total gross ratios by genre in the top 50 films at the US box office, 1991 to 2010 (Source: Box Office Mojo)

Table 1 Opening/total gross ratios by genre in the top 50 films at the US box office, 1991 to 2010 (Source: Box Office Mojo)

The overall median for 999 films is 0.2436; and so of the gross accumulated by these films, a quarter is taken in the opening weekends alone.

Three features stand out from this data:

  • Horror films have the highest median gross ratio of any genre, and tend to open big before falling away quite dramatically. Box office Mojo has chart views of the daily box office gross for films released in the US; and it is interesting to compare the charts for Saw IV (2007), which ran out of steam after less than a month on release, and Paranormal Activity (2009), which did not reach its peak gross until after a month. The gross ratio for the former film is 0.5017, and that of the latter is 0.0007. These films are the extremes of the data values for the genre.
  • The genres of action/adventure, family, and fantasy/science fiction tend not to have films with very low gross ratios – of the 410 films in these three genres, only 13 have very low gross ratios (and ten of these are family films). Action/adventure and fantasy/science fiction tend to have higher gross ratios, and so the opening weekend is more important for these genres. The distribution for family films is more consistent with comedy, crime/thriller, and romance films. These films tend to make a big initial splash, and rarely have the opportunity to build an audience over time.
  • Drama films have the lowest gross ratios; and of the 109 films in this category in the sample, 33 have an opening weekend of less than $1 million. This is the result of films in this genre being initially released to a small number of screens and allowing the film to build an audience on the basis of critical reviews and word of mouth. Drama films are therefore characterised by a particular release pattern that it is not evident in the other genres, and the opening weekend gross is unreliable as a predictor of the total gross.

The above graph is a very simple plot of a simple calculation performed on some easily obtained data, but we can immediately see how different genres find their way into the film market in the US. These patterns are even stronger when we look at box office data sorted by genre in more detail, as will become clear when I put up the full paper in a couple of weeks.

Determining box office success

I had not actually planned to write anything this week because someone said that the world was going to end on Saturday.

It didn’t.

And so this week I present a collection of papers on the factors that shape the box office performance of films. The majority of these papers are the final versions from university research depositories, but some may be pre-prints or drafts so check before you cite.

The best place to start is undoubtedly this paper from Jehoshua Eliashberg, Anita Elberse, and Mark A.A.M. Leenders from 2006, which provides a summary of research in this area and illustrates the type of research carried out in the fields of economics, retailing, and marketing that is entirely absent from film studies texts.

Eliashberg J, Elberse A, and Leenders MAAM 2006 The motion picture industry: critical issues in practice, current research, and new research directions, Marketing Sceince 25 (6): 638-661.

The motion picture industry has provided a fruitful research domain for scholars in marketing and other disciplines. The industry has high economic importance and is appealing to researchers because it offers both rich data that cover the entire product lifecycle for many new products and because it provides many unsolved “puzzles.” Although the amount of scholarly research in this area is rapidly growing, its impact on practice has not been as significant as in other industries (e.g., consumer packaged goods). In this article, we discuss critical practical issues for the motion picture industry, review existing knowledge on those issues, and outline promising research directions. Our review is organized around the three key stages in the value chain for theatrical motion pictures: production, distribution, and exhibition. Focusing on what we believe are critical managerial issues, we propose various conjectures—framed either as research challenges or specific research hypotheses—related to each stage in the value chain and often involved in understanding consumer moviegoing behavior.

The web page of Jehoshua Eliashberg at Wharton is here, and that of Anita Elberse at Harvard Business School is here. The webpage for Mark Leenders is here, and features the intriguing quote, “Hollywood movies and medicines are very similar from a marketing perspective.”

Basuroy S, Chetterjee S, and Ravid SA 2003 How critical are critical reviews? The box office effects of film critics, star power, and budgets, Journal of Marketing 67 (4): 103-117.

The authors investigate how critics affect the box office performance of films and how the effects may be moderated by stars and budgets. The authors examine the process through which critics affect box office revenue, that is, whether they influence the decision of the film going public (their role as influencers), merely predict the decision (their role as predictors), or do both. They find that both positive and negative reviews are correlated with weekly box office revenue over an eight-week period, suggesting that critics play a dual role: They can influence and predict box office revenue. However, the authors find the impact of negative reviews (but not positive reviews) to diminish over time, a pattern that is more consistent with critics’ role as influencers. The authors then compare the positive impact of good reviews with the negative impact of bad reviews to find that film reviews evidence a negativity bias; that is, negative reviews hurt performance more than positive reviews help performance, but only during the first week of a film’s run. Finally, the authors examine two key moderators of critical reviews, stars and budgets, and find that popular stars and big budgets enhance box office revenue for films that receive more negative critical reviews than positive critical reviews but do little for films that receive more positive reviews than negative reviews. Taken together, the findings not only replicate and extend prior research on critical reviews and box office performance but also offer insight into how film studios can strategically manage the review process to enhance box office revenue.

The web page of Suman Basuroy at The University of Oklahoma is here, and has links to his many papers on the marketing of motion pictures.

Craig S, Douglas S, and Greene W 2003 Culture matters: a hierarchical linear random parameters model for predicting success of US films in foreign markets, Manuscript, Department of Marketing, Stern School of Business, NYU.

Culture matters in ways that are salient for products with significant cultural content. In particular, the cultural context in which a product is launched plays an important role in its success. The present study examines the impact of cultural context on the box office performance of US films in foreign markets. A hierarchical linear random parameters model is used to assess the impact of national culture, degree of Americanization, US box office and film genre on performance in eight foreign markets. The model allowed for film-specific heterogeneity to be accounted for and for hypotheses to be tested at both the film level and the country level. Results indicate that films perform better in countries that are culturally closer to the US and those that have a higher degree of Americanization. The genre of the film and US box office success also had a significant impact on performance. Some implications are drawn for managers releasing films in foreign markets.

Dellarocas C, Farag NA, and Zhang X 2005 Using online ratings as a proxy of word-of-mouth in motion picture revenue forecasting, SSRN Working Paper.

The emergence of online product review forums has enabled firms to monitor consumer opinions about their products in real-time by mining publicly available information from the Internet. This paper studies the value of online product ratings in revenue forecasting of new experience goods. Our objective is to understand what metrics of online ratings are the most informative indicators of a product’s future sales and how the explanatory power of such metrics compares to that of other variables that have traditionally been used for similar purposes in the past. We focus our attention on online movie ratings and incorporate our findings into practical motion picture revenue forecasting models that use very early (opening weekend) box office and movie ratings data to generate remarkably accurate forecasts of a movie’s future revenue trajectory. Among the metrics of online ratings we considered, we found the valence of user ratings to be the most significant explanatory variable. The gender diversity of online raters was also significant, supporting the theory that word-of-mouth that is more widely dispersed among different social groups is more effective. Interestingly, our analysis found user ratings to be more influential in predicting future revenues than average professional critic reviews. Overall, our study has established that online ratings are a useful source of information about a movie’s long-term prospects, enabling exhibitors and distributors to obtain revenue forecasts of a given accuracy sooner than with older techniques.

Elberse A 2007 The power of stars: do star actors drive the success of movies?, Journal of Marketing 71 (4): 102-120.

Is the involvement of stars critical to the success of motion pictures? Film studios, which regularly pay multimillion-dollar fees to stars, seem to be driven by that belief. This article sheds light on the returns on this investment using an event study that considers the impact of more than 1200 casting announcements on trading behavior in a simulated and real stock market setting. The author finds evidence that the involvement of stars affects movies’ expected theatrical revenues and provides insight into the magnitude of this effect. For example, the estimates suggest that, on average, stars are worth approximately $3 million in theatrical revenues. In a cross-sectional analysis grounded in the literature on group dynamics, the author also examines the determinants of the magnitude of stars’ impact on expected revenues. Among other things, the author shows that the stronger a cast already is, the greater is the impact of a newly recruited star with a track record of box office successes or with a strong artistic reputation. Finally, in an extension to the study, the author does not find that the involvement of stars in movies increases the valuation of film companies that release the movies, thus providing insufficient grounds to conclude that stars add more value than they capture. The author discusses implications for managers in the motion picture industry.

Elliot C and Simmons R 2007 Determinants of UK Box Office Success: The Impact of Quality Signals, Lancaster University Management School Working Paper 2007/012.

This paper analyses the roles of various potential quality signals in the demand for cinema in the United Kingdom using a breakdown of advertising totals by media category. Estimation of a two stage least squares model with data for 546 films released in the United Kingdom shows that the impacts of types of advertising on box office revenues vary both in channels and magnitudes of impact. We also offer a more sophisticated treatment of critical reviews than hitherto by examining the spread (entropy) rather than just the mean rating.

Hennig-Thurau T, Houston MB, Sridhar S 2006 Can good marketing carry a bad product? Evidence from the motion picture industry, Marketing Letters 17 (3): 205-219.

We examine the relative roles of marketing actions and product quality in determining commercial success. Using the motion picture context, in which product quality is difficult for consumers to anticipate and information on product success is available for different points in time, we model the effects of studio actions and movie quality on a movie’s sales during different phases of its theatrical run. For a sample of 331 recent motion pictures, structural equation modeling demonstrates that studio actions primarily influence early box office results, whereas movie quality influences both short- and long-term theatrical outcomes. The core results are robust across moderating conditions. We identify two data segments with follow-up latent class regressions and explore the degree of studio actions needed to “save” movies of varying quality.We finally offer some implications for research and management.

Hennig-Thurau T, Walsh G, and Bode M 2004 Exporting media products: understanding the success and failure of hollywood movies in Germany, Advances in Consumer Research 31 (1): 633-638.

Rising production costs in the US motion picture industry make overseas markets essential for movie studios’ economic survival. However, movie marketers can rarely build on systematic research when attempting to customize movies or movie-related communications to different cultural settings. In this paper, we draw from cultural theory to develop a conceptual framework of US movies’ success in foreign markets. Propositions are then developed that offer insight into the differing impact of a number of factors on movie success in the US and Germany. Marketing implications will be discussed.

The webpage for Thorsten Hennig-Thurau at the Cass Business School is here.

Sharda R and Delen D 2006 Predicting box-office success of motion pictures with neural networks, Expert Systems with Applications 30 (2): 243-254. [NB: although there is no specific URL associated with it, there is a downloadable version of this paper which you will find if your search for the title in Google Scholar].

Predicting box-office receipts of a particular motion picture has intrigued many scholars and industry leaders as a difficult and challenging problem. In this study, the use of neural networks in predicting the financial performance of a movie at the box-office before its theatrical release is explored. In our model, the forecasting problem is converted into a classification problem-rather than forecasting the point estimate of box-office receipts, a movie based on its box-office receipts in one of nine categories is classified, ranging from a ‘flop’ to a ‘blockbuster.’ Because our model is designed to predict the expected revenue range of a movie before its theatrical release, it can be used as a powerful decision aid by studios, distributors, and exhibitors. Our prediction results is presented using two performance measures: average percent success rate of classifying a movie’s success exactly, or within one class of its actual performance. Comparison of our neural network to models proposed in the recent literature as well as other statistical techniques using a 10-fold cross validation methodology shows that the neural networks do a much better job of predicting in this setting.

Terry N, Butler M, and De’Armond D 2005 The determinants of domestic box office performance in the motion picture industry, Southwestern Economic Review 32: 137-148.

This paper examines the determinants of box office revenue in the motion picture industry. The sample consists of 505 films released during 2001-2003. Regression results indicate the primary determinants of box office earnings are critic reviews, award nominations, sequels, Motion Picture Association of America rating, budget, and release exposure. Specific results include the observation that a ten percent increase in critical approval garners an extra seven million dollars at the box office, an academy award nomination is worth six million dollars, the built in audience from sequels are worth eighteen million dollars, and R-rated movies are penalized twelve million dollars.

Local and global in the film industry

This week some papers on the relationship between different national film industries and between different scales of the film industry within the same country. These papers emphasise cinemas that we get to hear about only infrequently in the UK (and very likely elsewhere).

As ever, the version of the paper linked to may not necessarily be the final version.

Barnard H and Tuomi K 2008 How Demand Sophistication (De-)limits Economic Upgrading: Comparing the Film Industries of South Africa and Nigeria (Nollywood), Industry and Innovation 15 (6): 647-668.

More sophisticated demand is typically seen as an enabler of economic upgrading. This study questions this linearity and extends demand theory through a case analysis of the film industry in two developing countries. When unsophisticated local demand results in well-matched supply- and demand-side elements, benefits do accrue. Low exposure to technically superior products in Nigeria allowed a fully fledged film value chain to develop, as consumers were willing to support lower quality output. Although the industry is too weak to seriously threaten incumbents from the developed world on the global stage, it has substantial impact in its home country. In contrast, if demand is far more sophisticated than supply, local industry will struggle to respond to broad-based demand signals and will achieve accelerated learning only in niche areas. South Africa has become a niche producer in the global film industry rather than film producer in its own right partly because the widespread demand for Hollywood-quality products could not be met by local supply capabilities.

Durmaz, B, Yigitcanlar T and V K 2008 Creative cities and the film industry: Antalya’s transition to a Eurasian film centre, The Open Urban Studies Journal 1: 1-10.

In the knowledge era, cites are competing to attract and retain creative industries and workers for securing their economic, social and urban growth as well as ensuring their creative city formation. During the last decade rapidly growing popularity of creative cities has encouraged many cities seeking creativity to specialise in specific sectors of the creative industries. In this context, the paper explores creativity strategies and the role of film industry in creative city formulation. Antalya, Turkey is investigated as an emerging film industry-oriented creative city due to recent industry developments, its natural and constructed assets and amenities along with its openness to creativity. This paper also examines some of the creative city examples, scrutinises potentials and constraints of Antalya and Turkish film industry, and provides discussion and recommendation for Antalya’s transition to a Eurasian film centre.

Edwards JR 2008 Building a Self-Sustaining, Indigenous Film Industry in Kenya, World Story Organization.

In August of 2008, the World Story Organization (WSO) met with the Kenya Film Commission to discuss the current state of the Kenyan film industry, specifically regarding local productions indigenous to Kenya (as opposed to external production companies that use Kenya

as a backdrop and setting). WSO, founded in April of 2008 as a non-profit organization, seeks to provide filmmaking and storytelling education for developing film industries around the world.

As part of its partnership with the Kenya Film Commission, WSO plans to deliver screenwriting and production workshops in Nairobi, Kenya in 2009. The hope is that these pilot courses will lay the foundation for a School of Excellence in Film Production in Kenya. This school would offer a one-year program in film production for Kenyans, by Kenyans. Currently no such film school program exists in all of East Africa.

The challenges that face building a self-sustaining, indigenous film industry in Kenya are varied and numerous. The purpose of this study is to address these challenges and define the role that the World Story Organization hopes to fill in accomplishing this goal.

Garcia, Jr. L and Masigan C 2001 An In-depth Study of the Film in the Phillipines.

The paper aims to define the industry and its structure, examine the laws that hinder or facilitate its growth as well as the existing associations and what they have done; look into the market potential of the film industry and its foreign market demand; examine supply capability; identify opportunities and threats confronting the industry; prepare an action plan to enhance competitiveness; and recommend a performance monitoring scheme.

Harabi N 2009 Creative industries: case studies from Arab countries, Learning Event on Developing Knowledge Economy Strategies to Improve Competitiveness in the MENA Region by the World Bank Institute, 17-21 May 2009, Alexandria Egypt.

The paper describes and explains empirically the economic performance of four key creative industries (the book publishing, music sound recording, film production and software industries) in five Arab countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon). Using the Porter (Diamond) model as its theoretical background, a survey was conducted in the years 2002-03 among 242 experts, covering firm representatives, industry and government experts. The results were incorporated into five national case studies. This paper synthesizes the results of those national reports, giving a comparative account of the performance of the four creative industries in these Arab countries. The overall results of the study suggest that creative industries in Arab countries are substantially underdeveloped, and there remains a great potential that should systematically be mobilized. A discussion of how this can be achieved is offered, based upon a well-designed and implemented process of upgrading and innovation in companies, industries and clusters related to creative activities. Public policy can play in this process an important role, as shown in the example of promoting Shanghai creative industries, where the Municipal Government has played a key role.

Nogueira JC 2009 Film and Video Festivals in South America: A Contemporary Analysis of Flourishing Cultural Phenomena. Unpublished MA Thesis, Ohio University.

This research mapped 175 audiovisual festivals that took place in South America in 2008 and analyzed them regarding the types of events they are, the place and time of the year they take place, what kind of films/videos they exhibit and the number of years that they have been happening. The research also compared the data with the population of each country, their GDP and number of internet users. The research also performed case studies of successful events and events that have been discontinued and compared their analysis in order to identify reasons and elements that can turn an audiovisual festival into a success or a failure.

Rosnan H and Ismail MN 2010 The impact of cultural industries on national economies, Business Management Quarterly Review 1 (2): 33-42.

The main objective of this paper is to examine the impact of cultural industries in general and film industry in particular on national economy. Globally, cultural industries have contributed to economic development of many developed and developing countries. For example, in the United States, film industry (which fall under the category of cultural industries) contribution is greater than its aerospace industry. In the case of third world countries, film industry has been neglected in the academic literature despite its huge potential contribution to the economy. Based on the reviews of earlier studies, it was found that little attention has been given by scholars to study the impact of cultural industries and national economic development. Most studies on economic development focused on other industries deemed significant, especially manufacturing industry. Hence, this paper highlights the importance of cultural industries and its potential contribution to national economy. It also highlights some important points that need to be considered by national government in their effort to benefit from the development of their national film industry.

Wong C, Kim J-B, and Matthews JH 2010 Managing creativity and its paradoxes in the film industry, INBAM Conference: Creativity and Innovation in an International Context, 1-4 June 2010, Valencia, Spain.

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the various types of paradoxes underlying the nature of creativity, which in turn affect the foundations of organizations and organization change in the 21st century. The film industry best illustrate the interaction of such paradoxes, creativity and organizational change. This paper examines how small and medium-sized firms in the emerging Singapore film industry stay competitive by managing or not managing these paradoxes.

Design/methodology/approach: The study reported in this paper explores the opinions, attitudes and experiences of key decision-makers in the Singaporean film industry.

Findings: This paper introduces the idea that an analysis of the various paradoxes driven by creativity in today’s society provides hints on a deeper understanding of organizational change and development in the 21″ century.

Practical implications: The findings indicate that managers need practical tools that will enable them to comprehend and better manage these emerging contradictions and fully understand the implications of paradoxical situations and organizational change.

Research limitations: The distinctive nature of the Singaporean firms means that certain factors examined may be more or less significant in the film industry in other countries.

Originality/value: The value of this paper lies in the knowledge that paradox considerations are becoming significant in understanding pluralism and the processes of organizational change.

Regional shorts, 2007-2009

Back in 2009 I looked at the regional distribution of feature film production in the UK (here and here), but it is short films that account for a significant proportion of production (if not of actual cash). There are some parts of the UK where feature films are few and far between (mainly rural areas, but Herefordshire Shropshire in particular) and where short films are substantially more important. This post uses data from the Internet Movie Database to describe (roughly) the geographical distribution of British short film production in the UK from 2007 to 2009.

Data

Getting data on short film production is difficult – there is no definitive register of short films produced in the UK and the UK Film Council does not track this type production. (In fact the UK Film Council does not track feature film production with budgets below £500,000). There is also no data collected on the geography of film production in the UK. To estimate the geographical distribution of short film production, I used the advanced search function of the Internet Movie Database to search for UK short films released or completed from 2007 to 2009 inclusive that were produced in specific geographical locations (e.g Essex, Yorkshire, Scotland, etc.) and then sorting these by government standard region (North West, East Midlands, Scotland, etc).

The presentation of the data is based on the same assumptions that I used in the earlier posts:

  • Where a film is produced in more than one region, then this counts as one connection to each region. As a film may be produced in more than one region, the total number of connections exceeds the total number of films.
  • A film has a single connection to region only, even if numerous locations within that region were used.
  • Production at a studio is classed as production activity in a region (e.g., production at Shepperton takes place in Surrey and so is classed as South East England).

Documentaries and music videos are not included, but animations are included.

Collecting data in this way has its limitations. First, it is not known how many films were produced but not listed on the Internet Movie Database, and so we cannot know the overall level of production. The figures presented here are therefore estimates only, and allow us look at the relative differences between different regions rather than the absolute differences. Second, we can only estimate the distribution of production and not the level of production – we do not know how much has been spent in each region. In other words, we can estimate the range but not the depth of short film production in the UK.

Given these caveats, I still think that this is a worthwhile exercise as I have not come across a similar survey of production for short films. (I am aware of the futility of this exercise given the proposed reorganisation of the film industry at the regional level).

Results

These search criteria produced a data set of 1143 films, which accounted for a total of 1222 connections. These films range in duration from 1 minute to 40 minutes, and in budget (where stated) from £10 to £200,000.

Figure 1 presents the total number of productions in each region, and as we would expect it is dominated by London, which accounts for 47% of the total number of connections. The South East accounts for 12% of the total. If we take the three regions in south-eastern England together (ie London, the South East, and East), account for 64% of the total number of connections. The South West is third with 8% and Scotland fourth at 6%. The North East has the lowest level of production, and this reflects the low level of feature film production identified in the earlier post. Northern Ireland, the East Midlands, and the West Midlands also show low levels of production in both short and feature film production.

Figure 1 Number of UK short films produced in each region, 2007 to 2009

Table 1 presents a breakdown of the number of UK short films to shoot in each region by year.  London shows the greatest variation over this time period. The dominance of London accounts for the large change in the year on year totals. The number of short films produced in Wales doubles from 2007 to 2008, with a further small increase. Production in the South West also shows a large increase followed by a substantial decrease. Levels of production are relatively stable over the period 2007 to 2009 for the other regions.

Table 1 UK short film production by region and year

The changes in the relative performance of the different regions can be more clearly seen by looking at the year by year ranks of each region, and these are presented in Table 2. We can see that, in general, the rank of a region is stable over the time period covered. There are two notable changes in Table 2: Wales moves up the ranking from 10.5 in 2007 to 5 in 2009, and this reflects the sharp increase in the number of productions noted in Table 1; and the North West has slipped from 3 to 7, but as there is no large drop off in the number of films produced this may be due to the variation in the number of films produced in this and other regions. The large variation in the number of productions in the South West has not substantially changed its ranking.

Table 2 Yearly ranks of region for UK short film production

There is very little interaction between the regions, and of the films included in the survey only 65 were produced in more than one region and 7 were produced in three regions. Where these interactions did occur, they were predominantly between London and another region. The South East (29) and East (10) were the regions with greatest number of connections to London – but this is unsurprising as these are the regions that border London.

Research on film industries

THis week a collection of articles looking at film industries from perspectives that are typically different from that typically found in film studies. As usual, the version linked to may not be the final version published.

There is a lot of interesting research of film industries available through the Copenhagen Business School’s Knowledge portal (here), and by searching its research database and open archive. The CBS has a robust approach to open access and most of the research is available in English. Topics include:

  • The internationalization of the Indian film industry
  • City branding and film festivals
  • Film labour markets
  • The Danish film industry
  • Globalization and the cinema

Bakker G 2004 At the Origins of Increased Productivity Growth in Services: Productivity, Social Savings and the Consumer Surplus of the Film Industry, 1900-1938, Working Paper 81, Department of Economic History, London School of Eocnomics.

This paper estimates and compares the benefits cinema technology generated to society in Britain, France and the US between 1900 and 1938. It is shown how cinema industrialised live entertainment, by standardisation, automation and making it tradable. The economic impact is measured in three ways: TFP-growth, social savings in 1938 and the consumer surplus enjoyed in 1938. Preliminary findings suggest that the entertainment industry accounted for 1.5 to 1.7 percent of national TFP-growth and for 0.9 to 1.6 percent of real GDP-growth in the three countries. Social savings were highest in the US (c. 2.5 billion dollars and three million workers) and relatively modest in Britain and France, possibly because of the relative abundance of skilled live-entertainment workers. Comparative social savings at entertainment PPP-ratios inflate British social savings to above the US level. Converging exchange rates and PPP price ratios suggest rapid international market integration. The paper’s methodology and findings may give insight in technological change in other service industries that were also industrialised.

Cazetta S 2010 Cultural clusters and the city: the example of Filmbyen in Copenhagen, ACEI 16th International Conference on Cultural Economics, 9-12 June 2010, Copenhagen, Denmark.

This paper explores the origins and development of Filmbyen (FilmCity), a media hub created around Lars von Trier‟s film company Zentropa in the outskirts of Copenhagen.

In the first part of the paper the theoretical framework is introduced, with a review of the relevant literature concerning the role of culture in urban development and with a focus on clustering in the cultural industries.

Subsequently, after analyzing what kind of impact the film industry has on local economic development, and more specifically what role it plays in urban and regional development strategies (looking at Greater Copenhagen), the case of Filmbyen is studied in detail. The location patterns of film and film-related companies based in this special district are investigated with a small-scale survey – observing in particular what are the advantages of clustering, what networks are created, what kind of urban environment comes about.

Coe NM 2000 The view from out West: embeddedness, inter-personal relations and the development of an indigenous film industry in Vancouver, Geoforum 31: 391-407.

This paper considers the development of a particular cultural industry, the indigenous film and television production sector, in a specific locality, Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada). Vancouver’s film and television industry exhibits a high level of dependency on the location shooting of US funded productions, a relatively mobile form of foreign investment capital. As such, the development of locally developed and funded projects is crucial to the long-term sustainability of the industry. The key facilitators of growth in the indigenous sector are a small group of independent producers that are attempting to develop their own projects within a whole series of constraints apparently operating at the local, national and international levels. At the international level, they are situated within a North American cultural industry where the funding, production, distribution and exhibition of projects is dominated by US multinationals. At the national level, both government funding schemes and broadcaster purchasing patterns favour the larger production companies of central Canada. At the local level, producers have to compete with the demands of US productions for crew, locations and equipment. I frame my analysis within notions of the embeddedness or embodiment of social and economic relations, and suggest that the material realities of processes operating at the three inter-linked scales, are effectively embodied in a small group of individual producers and their inter-personal networks.

Hoefert de Turégano T 2006 Public Support for the International Promotion of European Films, European Audiovisual Observatory.

Jones C 2001 Co-evolution of entrpreneurial careers, institutional rules, and competitive dymanics in American Film, 1895-1920, Organization Studies 22 (6): 911-944.

An historical case analysis of the American film industry is undertaken to gain a better understanding of the co-evolutionary processes of entrepreneurial careers, institutional rules and competitive dynamics in emerging industries. The study compares technology and content-focused periods, which were driven by entrepreneurs with different career histories and characterized by distinct institutional rules and competitive dynamics. Archival data and historical analysis is used to trace how entrepreneurial careers, firm capabilities, institutional rules, and competitive dynamics co-evolved. A co-evolutionary perspective is integrated with insights from institutional and resource-based theories to explain how the American film industry emerged, set an initial trajectory with specific institutional rules and competitive dynamics, and then changed.

Mezias Sj and Kuperman JC 2001 The community dynamics of entrepreneurship: the birth of the American film industry, 1895-1929, Journal of Business Venturing 16 (3): 209-233. [NB: this is not the full abstract, which is actually longer than some research papers].

This paper provides insight for practitioners by exploring the collective process of entrepreneurship in the context of the formation of new industries. In contrast to the popular notions of entrepreneurship, with their emphasis on individual traits, we argue that successful entrepreneurship is often not solely the result of solitary individuals acting in isolation. In many respects, entrepreneurs exist as part of larger collectives. First and foremost, there is the population of organizations engaging in activities similar to those of the entrepreneurial firm, which constitute a social system that can affect entrepreneurial success. In addition, there is also a community of populations of organizations characterized by interdependence of outcomes. Individual entrepreneurs may be more successful in the venturing process if they recognize some of the ways in which their success may depend on the actions of entrepreneurs throughout this community. Thus, we urge practitioners and theorists alike to include a community perspective in their approach to entrepreneurship. We also suggest that one way of conceptualizing the community of relevance might be in terms of populations of organizations that constitute the value chain. For example, in the early film industry a simple value chain with three functions—production, distribution, and exhibition—is a convenient heuristic for considering what populations of organizations might be relevant. As we show in our case study of that industry, a community model offers insights into the collective nature of entrepreneurship and the emergence of new industries.

Orbach BY and Einav L 2007 Uniform prices for differentiated goods: the case of the movie-theater industry, International Review of Law and Economics 27 (2): 129-153.

Since the early 1970s, movie theaters in the United States have employed a pricing model of uniform prices for differentiated goods. At any given theater, one price is charged for all movies, seven days a week, 365 days a year. This pricing model is puzzling in light of the potential profitability of prices that vary with demand characteristics. Another unique aspect of the motion-picture industry is the legal regime that imposes certain constraints on vertical arrangements between distributors and retailers (exhibitors) and attempts to facilitate competitive bidding for films. We explore the justifications for uniform pricing in the industry and show their limitations. We conclude that exhibitors could increase profits by engaging in variable pricing and that they could do so more easily if the legal constraints on vertical arrangements are lifted.