Problem: 7 in 10 feature films lose money

Another Day at the Office for Philosophy Dude

Another Hard Day at the Office for Naked Philosophy Guy

Just sayin’:

7 in 10 feature films lose money

7 in 10 feature films lose money

On The `7 in 10 films loses money’ Problem

So, in the most comprehensive statistical economic survey of the feature film domain to date, Entertainment Industry Economics, Vogel (2011, 2014) states

‘…of any ten major theatrical films produced, on the average, six or seven may be broadly characterized as unprofitable and one might break even.’

(Vogel 2011: 71)

This same problem has been consistent for over 20 years, as – the records show that – likewise, in the same book (note: a different-coloured, earlier edition), back in 1990: on average, 2 in 10 films made money, 1 in 10 films `broke even’ and 7 in 10 films lost money(!) (Vogel 1990: 70).

Likewise: the Australian and UK film industry figures are similar…! (see: FilmVictoria 2011)

Likewise – De Vany also finds that:

`Seventy-eight percent of movies lose money and only 22% are profitable.’

(De Vany and Walls 2004: 1039)

– This is the same result.

Well so – what does it mean for the screenwriter:

i.e. That: `7 in 10 movies lose money’?

…It means: everything.

For one thing, it means: You, Mr (or, Mz.) Screenwriter-Guy (or Gal), have only a 30% chance of succeeding in making a movie that actually makes money.

And: we all know, What happens if a movie you are involved with, doesn’t make money?

You get a free Hostess Twinkie. Or not.



(Also, the screenwriter might find it hard to work again.)

And – why?

Because: “You’re only as good as your last movie”.

See, major film studios can hedge their financial risk – by investing in a `slate’ of 10 movies at once. (aka `portfolio theory’).

But – what happens to the creative teams behind those 7 in 10 movies that flop?

And – where does all this leave the independent filmmaker?

They can’t write/make 10 movies at once…(!)

A feature film takes about 2 years – or usually, much more for an indie film (10 years) – to go from conception to completion (exhibition)-!

(See the brilliant book The Screenplay Business (Bloore 2013))

Assuming that, the film even gets a theatrical release.

Another major problem is:

Only 2% of screen ideas/screenplays are produced

Only 2% of screen ideas/screenplays are produced (Macdonald 2004)

98% of screenplays go unproduced. (Macdonald 2004, 2013)

So of the 2% that do get produced, 70% of them fail to return a profit.

(And – this makes it harder for the creatives involved – writers, directors, etc – to make their next film.)

…Is there some kind of solution to these 2 x problems?

Yes. It ain’t all doom & gloom. (In fact, far from it.)

– There is a likely solution to all this.

You can combine them – and create a bigger problem.

e.g.: StoryAlity #115The `Less-Than-1%’ Problem in the Domain of Film

But – it’s a problem in all culture.

e.g.: StoryAlity #114BThe Less Than 1% Problem in the Domain of Novels

It’s due to: Evolution.

StoryAlity #131 – Why Things (like, some Movies) Are Popular – and – The Anna Karenina principle

…Thoughts, comments, feedback welcome.


JT Velikovsky

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/



Bloore, P 2013, The Screenplay Business: Managing Creativity in the Film Industry, Routledge, London; New York.

De Vany, Arthur S. and Walls, W. David (2004), ‘Motion picture profit, the stable Paretian hypothesis, and the curse of the superstar’, Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, 28 (6), 1035-57.

FilmVictoria (2011), ‘Australian Films at the Australian Box Office’. <www.film.vic.gov.au/__data/…/AA4_Aust_Box_office_report.pdf>.

Macdonald, Ian W. (2004), ‘The Presentation of the Screen Idea in Narrative Film-making’, PhD Thesis, (Leeds Metropolitan University).

Vogel, Harold L. (1990), Entertainment Industry Economics: A Guide for Financial Analysis (2nd edn.; Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press) xvi, 432 p.

Vogel, Harold L. (2011), Entertainment Industry Economics: A Guide For Financial Analysis (8th edn.; New York: Cambridge University Press) xxii, 655 p.


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