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Analysis: That Music You Hear? It's Probably By Hans Zimmer

September 22nd, 2013

Top-grossing people in technical roles

Last week I unveiled our new People Records section and talked about some of top performers across different types of acting, from the blockbusting superstars to the unsung heroes, to the cameo kings and queens. We've added some more charts to the record section this week, this time covering technical roles, and once more there's a lot of data to be mined.

First, I should mention that the task of adding technical roles to the database swamps that of bringing our acting credits up to date. You'll know that already if you've ever sat through the credits of a blockbuster film. After a minute or so of acting credits, the technical credits will scroll, and scroll, and scroll, sometimes lasting for fifteen or twenty minutes.

While we are working away to add as much data as possible to the database, there are limits to what we can achieve, so our main focus initially has been on above-the-line technical credits (basically, the names you see in spidery writing at the bottom of the poster). This gives us a good sense of who the heavy hitters are, which is a good start towards getting a complete handle on the industry.

What stands out so far is how remarkably prolific composers are. They are slightly over-represented in the chart of top-grossing people in technical roles because we've been tracking composer credits for a while, but even so it's remarkable how many names at the top of the chart come from this field. Top overall is Hans Zimmer, who has 81 composing credits for films totaling over $9 billion in domestic box office receipts. If you're an average movie goer, he's the person who's probably contributed to the most screen minutes you've sat through. This year alone, he wrote the score for Man of Steel, The Lone Ranger and Rush. (OK, so you didn't go see The Lone Ranger, but I'll bet you've seen at least one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Madagascar, Inception or The Simpsons Movie. If not, you're probably here by accident.)

Our other $9 billion man is fellow-composer John Williams, with James Newton Howard, Danny Elfman and Alan Silvestri (composers all) clustered behind the top two, all with around $6.5 billion.

The top non-composer so far is Christopher Boyes, who has been sound designer for 31 films totaling a shade over $6 billion at the box office. How ubiquitous is Boyes? Well, he worked on The Hobbit, The Avengers, all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Oh, and Titanic. In short, if you want to earn over $300 million at the box office, it pays to have Christopher on your team. And the stats say that if you want to earn over $600 million at the box office, you have to have Christopher on your team.

Other non-composers at the top of the chart include Michael Kahn, whose editing you'll know if you've ever watched an Indiana Jones or a Jurassic Park film; Stan Lee, who has an executive producer credit on all those Marvel movies; and the man one might assume would top the chart, Steven Spielberg, who is by far the most successful director, but just hasn't directed enough films to compete with the titans on this particular chart. Yep, this may be the only chart you'll ever see with Steven Spielberg in 13th place.

As I say, we're working away hard on the database and adding credits all the time, so I expect some other names to rise to the top as we round out our research. But we already have enough data to dig in and do some further analysis. That work will be the subject of columns over the next few weeks.

- People Records Overview
- Top-Grossing People in Technical Roles
- Top-Grossing Directors
- Top-Grossing Composers
- Top-Grossing Producers
- For many more categories, go to the People Records section and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Bruce Nash

Filed under: Analysis, Rush, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, Stan Lee, Steven Spielberg, Alan Silvestri, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, John Williams, Michael Kahn, Christopher Boyes