Does it pay to be original in Hollywood any longer? As summer blockbusters become larger financial risks, more and more studios are turning towards pre-established material in a bid for assured success. This begs the questions, is originality still paying off in the film industry or does success now ride on its source material? We’ve segmented summer blockbuster films from 2000 to 2013 to see if this trend in films has been paying off. We analyzed originality vs. “un-originality” in a few different ways to dig into this question.
Let’s first take a look at how many summer blockbuster films overall from the past thirteen years are based on original screenplays versus adaptations from various sources (i.e. books, comics, TV shows).
Then we’ll take a look at originality by genre. As you can see in the graph below, the box office favors comedy for originality, followed by kids movies and action flicks. You can also see that comics contribute heavily to the action movies category. It’s clear that most sci-fi / fantasy based movies won’t be produced without some source material. It is also interesting to note this prevalent trend in the drama department as well.
What about gross earnings? Perhaps the reason that there is such a trend towards “unoriginal” blockbusters is because they are bringing in more money at the box office. A proven financial success would be a good indicator for this growing trend. We looked at average gross earnings by source category and this tells a different story, original screenplays bring in only about 10% of the total gross earnings for summer blockbusters from 2000-2013. The largest categories for gross earnings are toy/games/rides, comic and radio.
The question we started with was whether originality was decreasing with time, so let’s look at originality by genre and release date. The graph below does not definitively point to a decline in originality. Originality took a hit in 2008 with the release of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Wanted and The Dark Knight. It also decreased in 2011 with the release of Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, and the last Harry Potter movie in the series.
Lastly, we looked at Original vs. Adaptation over time, and there were periods of time (2006-2008 and 2011-2012)) when adapted screenplays beat out originals for gross earnings.
Take a look at this data yourself at Boxofficemojo. Bottom line? Originality is still the winner in overall summer blockbusters released, but is losing ground in gross earnings. Does this mean that studios will continue to rely on adapted source materials? It may too early to tell, since 2009, 2010 and 2013 were big years for original content. Either way, it does appear that movies based on comic books are here to stay for a while (thanks to Spider Man and X-Men films being the trendsetters). Stay tuned for more comic-themed movie analysis to come!
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