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OpusData Analysis: Why You Should Be Making a Romantic Horror Comedy

December 8th, 2010

If you have your sights set on making a fortune in the movie industry, this week's OpusData analysis is our Christmas gift to you. This time around, we look at the relative performance of different genres, based on return on production dollar in theaters and on video. If your sole criterion for movie success is the amount people will spend to see your movie compared to its budget, this column will tell you which genres to avoid, and which could make you rich...

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First up, let's look at how the different genres perform at the box office:

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This analysis covers all movies for which we have both a budget and reported box office. Perhaps unsurprisingly, documentaries lead the way, with an average ratio of over 200% (i.e., two dollars are spent at the box office for every one dollar spent on production). However, note that the report only covers 42 of the thousands of documentaries made in recent years, a reflection how few of them make it into theaters. Horror movies come in a strong second place with a ratio of 192%, mainly thanks to their low production budgets. Surprisingly, musicals come third, again partly due to their relatively low production budgets.

In fact, the big message from the analysis is that low budgets really help. Comedies also do well, while adventure and action movies, which rely on much more elaborate production set-ups, are in the lower part of the chart. To be fair, adventure movies do make the most at the box office in absolute terms, but their high production costs make them more suited to major studios than independents (unless your name happens to be George Lucas or Steven Spielberg).

OK. So we know how things work out at the box office, but what about in the home market?

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Well, here's where horror and comedies really shine. The chart above shows the average ratio of consumer spending on DVDs to production budget for movies for which we have both the budget and consumer spending figures. This tends to exclude smaller films that haven't sold well on DVD, so the total number of movies in the report is somewhat lower than in the theatrical analysis.

Romantic comedies are the big winner here, thanks once again to their low budgets. While they might not sell as well as adventure movies overall, they get a significantly better bang for their production budget buck. Horror movies come a close second, and are the overall winners when theatrical and DVD earnings are combined. (Horror also rents well, although that's not covered in the charts above.)

Once more, action and adventure trails a bit thanks to their higher production budgets. But the big loser turns out to be the thriller. It's a genre that doesn't do well in theaters, but does even less well on DVD (although its rental numbers do help a bit, which isn't reflected in this particular analysis). Why does this genre struggle? Well, it usually involves a complex production (think car chases), and usually appeals to a slightly older demographic than action movies, which trims its financial performance.

Of course, the averages obscure some very profitable thrillers and money-losing horror movies, so the analysis doesn't guarantee the performance of a single movie one way or the other. But if you go by the numbers, you might want to make your next picture a horror movie. With a bit of romance and comedy thrown in for good measure.

You can embed the charts above in your web site or blog by using the embed codes below. An OpusData account is not required to embed reports, but you can sign up for a trial account to OpusData now to start building your own.

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Previous analysis:
- Crunch Time for Video Sales
- OpusData Reveals the Top Leading, Supporting and Voice Actors of All Time.