Spec Script Sales 2008 Analysis: Genres

January 5th, 2009 by

By my count, Hwood studios and prod cos acquired 88 spec scripts in 2008. During this week, I’ll be breaking down those numbers.

Note: I acquired information from the Daily Variety, Hollywood Reporter, DoneDealPro.com, Trackingboard.com, various other movie blogs, and some LA contacts. That said, these should not be considered ‘official’ stats, but best estimates given information sources.

First, let’s break down sales by genre. Some scripts were categorized as cross-genres, so those are noted where relevant.



Comedy 30

Comedy Adventure 1

Comedy Drama 1

Comedy Fantasy 1

Comedy Supernatural 1

Comedy Teen 1


Action Thriller 7

Action Adventure 2

Action 2

Action Teen 1

Action Horror 1


Drama 5

Drama Comedy 2

Drama Crime 1

Drama Epic War 1

Drama Supernatural 1

Drama Teen 1

Drama Thriller 1


Thriller 7

Thriller Adventure 1

Thriller Biopic 1

Thriller Drama 1



Fantasy 2

Fantasy Adventure 1


Sci Fi Action 2

Sci Fi 1




Fam Action Com 1


Horror Comedy 1

Clearly Comedy was king as this genre accounted for 40% of all spec script sales. And if you add Romantic Comedies, the number goes up to 48%.

The Action category has the most cross-genre movies with only 2 designated as straight-ahead action movies. In fact, if you combine Action Thriller (7) with Thriller (10), that total of 17 spec scripts would rank second to Comedy.

What can we discern from these numbers?

* While it might look like Hwood’s obsession with Fantasy could be on the wane with only 3 spec script sales in this genre, most of the fantasy acquisitions are books and book series, and that continues to be an active market.

* Drama acquisitions derive most often from books, too, so it’s a bit surprising to see that genre so well represented on the spec script list.

* It’s tempting to think that the strength of the Comedy genre is tied to our country’s current gloomy mood re economy, two wars, health care, and so on — and that likely is a contributing factor, Hwood figuring that moviegoers want escapist entertainment. However, comedy is always a strong genre annually in Hwood for many reasons including high concept comedies being easier to market, cheaper to make — plus there are a lot of talented comic actors right now who have proven they can ‘open’ a movie (e.g., Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Seth Rogen, Tina Fey).

* Action Thriller / Thriller appears to be an area in which the studios continue to have interest. Movie fans do like to get caught up in action and suspense, and that can serve as great escapist fare as well.

* The top four genres — Comedy, Action, Drama, Thriller — combine for a total of 69 deals or almost 80% of total sales. Not surprising because the studios have historically mined those genres to fill out their annual movie slates.

Bottom line: If you’re funny and can write funny, it’s a good market for a comedy spec script. Action Thriller also appears to be particularly strong. Per usual, if you write a great script in any genre, you stand a good chance it will get set up.

What are your thoughts re these numbers?

Tomorrow we’ll break down 2008 sales by studio to determine which ones were the most and least active in the spec script acquisition market.

Comment Archive

10 thoughts on “Spec Script Sales 2008 Analysis: Genres

  1. E.C. Henry says:

    GREAT job compiling this list, Scott.

    Wish more sci-fi was being bought. What happened to that genre?

    – E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

  2. Joshua James says:

    I just realized, no one really sells animation specs, do they?

    I thought family movies would be a larger part of the list … but clearly most of that stuff is either developed internally or not at all.

  3. Scott says:

    Bear in mind that there were likely over 400 deals last year, most of them remakes, books, comic books, graphic novels, real life newspaper and magazine articles.

    Animation is its own thing with most development done internally. Although I have seen a few spec ani scripts sell in the last few years.

  4. Belzecue says:

    As society’s outlook grows gloomier, the laughter coming from cinemas gets louder. Escapism and the healing power of the smile. Gotta love it.

    A fascinating list, Scott. Well done.

  5. joeld42 says:

    Thanks for posting this! Very enlightening. I put this data into google charts to visualize it:

    Chart: 2008 Script Sales by Genre

    Feel free to “save as” the png and add it to the post. :)

  6. Belzecue says:

    That is an awesome chart, joeld42. Great work.

    Scott, if you want to embed it in the article, I’ve copied it to tinypics for permanent reference. The URL is http://s5.tinypic.com/25zledw.jpg

  7. wcmartell says:

    Thank you for this – it is a bunch of great information and analysis.

    – Bill

  8. packey says:

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  9. JabberWocky says:

    This is strange, I thought horror was the second most popular after comedy. This isn't true?

  10. Scott says:

    @JabberWocky: Horror is a popular genre, but the top 3 genres in spec sales have tended to be comedy, thriller, and action. Science fiction and fantasy oftentimes have huge B.O. movies, but those are generally from pre-branded graphic novels, comic books, books, video games, toys, etc.

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