How Many Movies Are There?

Confused Crowd

There are approximately 500,000 movies in existence.

`An estimated worldwide total is 500,000 movies and 3 million television shows and video clips’ (Vogel 2011: 102)

How Many Movies Are There?

How Many Movies Are There?

 (Sheesh!) Where do they all come from? Mostly: India and Nigeria. 

Movies By CountrySource: http://chartsbin.com/view/pu4

Movies By Country
Source: http://chartsbin.com/view/pu4

Source: Chartsbin  http://chartsbin.com/view/pu4

Instructions: Click on the map. Then, click on the country to see how many movies are produced each year.

Note that:

#1 = India – including `Bollywood’ (1325 movies per year)

#2 – Nigeria – including `Nollywood’ (872 per year)

#3 – USA – including `Hollywood’ (520 per year)

#4 = China – (406 per year)

#? = Australia (41 per year)

Wow. Whodathunkit-?

And see also: http://chartsbin.com/view/29777

Below is a `Background to the Domain of Cinema’


Background to the Domain of Cinema

It has been estimated that there are approximately 500,000 movies (or, narrative fiction feature-length, theatrical-cinema films) currently in existence (Vogel 2011, p. 102). A `feature-length’ film is customarily defined as: 40 minutes or more in duration (AFI 2015, online) (AMPAS 2014, online) (BFI 2015, online).

While the earliest `motion pictures’ were up to ten minutes (or, a `one-reeler’) in duration, the first feature-length movie is dated to the Australian film, The Story of the Kelly Gang (Tait 1906, 40 minutes), also remade in 1910, at 70 minutes in duration (Jackson & Shirley 2006, online).

There are currently over 135,000 cinema screens worldwide (MPAA 2013, p. 2) on which approximately 8,000 movies are released internationally each year (Chartsbin 2014, online; MPAA 2013, online).

In the evolutionary view, this situation creates `selection pressure’ on individual movies, as not all movies are equally popular; industry-supply and audience-demand for specific movies (in fact, for specific movie stories) are asymmetrical, as most movies lose money.

Since a `massive release’ is 3,000 screens or more (Vogel 2011, p. 131), certain of those 8,000 movies will occupy many more of the finite available 135,000 screens than others, meaning that the others cannot occupy those same screens, or, cultural `ecological niches’.

The `survival model’ is the currently accepted theoretical foundation of empirically measuring movie success and failure (or, `birth’ and `death’ of specific movies) in cinemas (McKenzie 2009), (De Vany 2004, pp. 18-27), (Walls 1998), also incorporating the `creative industries’ theory of (Caves 2000), as noted in (Vogel 2011, p. 145).

There are approximately 190 countries in the world (WorldAtlas 2014, online). India currently produces the most movies, with 1,255 annually, followed by Nigeria (`Nollywood’) with 997, the United States produces 819, China 584, Japan 441, the United Kingdom 299, and other countries typically less, while Australia produces only 43 per year (Chartsbin 2014, online).

However, a major real-world problem is that 70 percent of movies released lose money in theatrical cinema release (De Vany & Walls 2004, p. 1039; Vogel 2011, p. 71) and this figure has remained constant for over twenty years (Vogel 1990, p. 70). This observed phenomenon suggests that only 30 percent of movie stories reach their target cinema – and, subsequent ancillary media – audience.

A second major real-world problem (specifically, for screenwriters) is that less than two percent of screenplays presented to producers become movies (Macdonald 2004, p. 190).

These two problems may be combined, as follows:

Problem (1) – 98% of screenplays are not produced; and, of the 2% of screenplays selected for production, there emerges:

Problem (2) – Namely, that 70% of movies lose money;

Thus, resulting in:

Problem (3) – That 0.6% (or, less than 1%) of screenplays presented to producers break even, as a movie.

This `composite problem’ is herein referred to as `The Less-Than-One-Percent Problem in Movies’, and, as a `discovered’ rather than `presented’ (or pre-existing, well-known) domain problem (see: Csikszentmihalyi 1996, pp. 95-8), has not previously been formulated in this way, nor evidently been investigated using a consilient, evolutionary, systems approach.

Any environment where 98% of content (such as, movie screenplays presented to producers) is de-selected is self-evidently `highly-competitive’: most directors only ever make one movie, and a single failure can end a movie career (Alexander 2003, pp. 153-4).

This key domain problem is therefore viewed as a serious real-world problem for most movie screenwriters, and raises the deeper question:

What are the successful stories, screenplays, and movies doing `right’, that, unsuccessful stories, screenplays, and movies are doing `wrong’?

Both Successful and Unsuccessful movies have: 3 `Acts'...

The Top 20 RoI and the Bottom 20 RoI Movies

While the most `successful’ (i.e., widest audience-reach) Hollywood `blockbusters’ such as Avatar, Titanic, the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchise movies each make around ten times their budget in cinema release (Nash Information Services 2015, online), when Return on Investment (or, RoI) is viewed as: a movie that reaches the widest audience, for the least movie production budget, by contrast, the most `successful’ movies make over seventy times their production budgets (Nash Information Services 2013, online).

This study therefore aims to examine the evidently-many causes of extreme movie success – and also conversely, the many causes of extreme failure – of a movie reaching its proposed target audience, and with potential implications for screenwriting pedagogy.

The methodology employed includes a new method within the domains of Communication, Narratology, Evocriticism, and Applied Evolutionary Epistemology, namely of more accurately identifying the evolutionary (1) units, (2) levels and (3) mechanisms in culture. In broad terms, the nested domains of knowledge utilized are: Communication, Consilience, Systems Theory, Evolutionary Theory, Creativity Theory, Narratology, Screenwriting, Movies, Evocriticism, Memetics, and Applied Evolutionary Epistemology. A synthesized view of these theoretical lenses is below.

Adopting the Systems (or, Evolutionary) view, and the extant scientific research in creativity, in this study the top 20 RoI, and bottom 20 RoI movies are examined for common elements in the 5 p’s of creativity – their creative: (1) person; (2) process (screenwriting, filmmaking); (3) product (the story, screenplay, movie); (4) place; and (5) persuasion.

The key aim is to provide guidelines for creatives, aiming for a wide audience-reach – or, Boyd’s (2010) `cost-benefit ratio’, for both artists and audiences – for their movie story, and thereby to ideally provide a set of heuristics that may allow creatives to avoid creating the 99% of stories, screenplays and movies that are de-selected by the movie field, or, `falsified’, in their environment, given Evolutionary Epistemology.

See also this book chapter:

StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture (and narreme, or unit of story)


…Thoughts, comments, feedback?


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/



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

Chartsbin: Movies By Country http://chartsbin.com/view/pu4


8 thoughts on “StoryAlity #19 – How Many Movies Are There?

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