Examining Box Office Numbers

Some thoughts about the way the box office currently looks…

Looking at the Top 2017 Movies at the Worldwide Box Office (Links to an external site.), it’s not surprising that the entirety of the top 10, and in fact the majority of the top 20, are films based on, or continuing a series of, existing properties – Despicable Me, Fast & the Furious, Spider-Man etc. all performed well. It’s only when you get down to #12 – Dunkirk – where anything wholly original appears (but that could also be argued, since it’s based on a true story). Next, there’s It – based on a book, The Boss Baby – actually wholly original as far as I’m aware, War for the Planet of the Apes – continuation, The Mummy – kind of an existing property, Fifty Shades Darker, Cars 3, xXx: Return of Xander Cage – all continuations.

None of this is surprising, and looking at the figures, it’s little wonder that studios are more inclined to develop films with brand name recognition than take the risk on anything entirely original.

Do production budgets have any impact on films’ success?

Indirectly, I would say so – generally a production budget will be higher on a film that the studio believes will reap them financial rewards. Franchises, sequels, comic-book movies. They can pretty much guarantee bums in seats, so they’re more likely to take a calculated risk with a higher production budget than they otherwise would. So although the budget itself doesn’t necessarily impact directly on the films’ success, I’d say it’s more that the predicted success of the film can very much influence the production budget.

And is a film’s box office dependent on its critical success?

Most definitely not. The Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers films, for example, have been ripped to shreds by critics (got to love Mark Kermode’s rants about these particular films!) but that hasn’t stopped people from going to watch them. These sorts of properties, people know what they’re going to get, so they’re either going to see them regardless or the reviews, or avoid them because they’re just not interested (I’m in the latter camp in these cases!)

I think these days it’s more word-of-mouth that influences success at the box office if it’s not an especially well-known property. The original Guardians of the Galaxy had basically been written off by Marvel as potentially being its first flop before it was released. It was word-of-mouth that made it such a huge success. I believe the same is true with the recent success of the new version of It – generally a horror film will do reasonably well at the box-office, but this one’s breaking records. Sure, it’s been well-reviewed, but a lot of horrors are well-reviewed and still under perform. Again, I think it’s word-of-mouth helping this one out. Social media most definitely has an impact on this sort of thing as well – good reviews can travel far more quickly across social networks than they used to. As can the bad reviews, of course.

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