2012 Spec Script Sales Analysis: Studios

January 22nd, 2013 by

Yesterday we looked at 2012 spec script sales by genre. Today we break down the numbers per studios and production companies to see which were the most and least active in the script acquisition market. The totals:



Warner Bros.


QED International

Twentieth Century Fox
Voltage Pictures

Chernin Entertainment
Legendary Pictures
New Regency
WWE Studios

Allied International
Angry Films
Arclight Entertainment
Black Forest Film Group
Chickie the Cop Entertainment
Code Entertainment
College Humor
Davis Entertainment
Derby Street Films
Dimension Films
DMG Entertainment
Endgame Entertainment
Enderby Entertainment
Fox 2000
Ian Bryce
IM Global Octane
Indian Paintbrush
Killer Films
Latitude Productions
Lascaux Films
Lava Bear
Myriad Pictures
New Line
Nu Image
Participant Media
Payam Films
Relativity Media
Scott Pictures
Screen Gems
Sidney Kimmel Entertainment
Silver Pictures
Sobini Films
Sentinel Pictures
SkyRock Venture

Look at these numbers from the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 per each major studio:

Disney 5 / 1 / 2 / 1 / 2
DreamWorks 6 / 4 / 1 / 2 / 1
Paramount 1 / 5 / 4 / 4 / 12
Sony Pictures 8 / 4 / 1 / 7 / 9
Twentieth Century Fox 5 / 3 / 1 / 7 / 3
Universal 6 / 6 / 1 / 6 / 9
Warner Bros. 8 / 8 / 8 / 15 / 7

While Warner Bros. came back down to earth this year on the spec script front, Paramount, Universal and Sony all procured more, most notably Paramount jumping up from 4 to 12 spec script deals.

Last year the major Hollywood studios were involved in 43 of the 99 spec script deals which amounts to 43% of total transactions, compared to 38% in 2011, 33% in 2010, 45% in 2009 and 43% in 2008. So the rebound in spec sales the last two years has been influenced by the major studios returning to the form they had in 2008 and 2009.

Here is a breakdown of acquisitions by genre at major and mini-major studios:

Almanac  — Thriller
The Cellar — Contained Thriller
Draft Day — Comedy
God Particle  — Science Fiction
The Gun Eaters  — Action Thriller
Huck — Drama Adventure
Monster Problems — Science Fiction Romance
Our Name Is Adam — Science Fiction
Patrol — Action Thriller
Sanctuary — Action Supernatural
Swindle — Action
Wunderkind — Action Thriller

Bloodshot — Action
El Tigre  — Comedy
Epsilon  — Science Fiction
Invertigo — Science Fiction
Lockdown At Franklin High — Horror Thriller
Rockets’ Red Glare  — Action Thriller
Savage Planet  — Action
Untitled Cameron Crowe Project  — Drama Romance
White House Down — Action

— Thriller
Bethlehem — Supernatural
Black Box  — Action Thriller
The Disciple Program — Thriller
Lights Out  — Science Fiction Thriller
NSFW — Thriller
Subdivision  — Science Fiction Comedy
Thirteen — Thriller
Untitled McCormick Cop Comedy — Comedy

Warner Bros.
Lore — Science Fiction Action
Pontius Pilate  — Drama
Run All Night — Action
Somacell  — Thriller
Son of a Bitch  — Comedy
Tape 4 — Horror
The Waiting — Thriller

Twentieth Century Fox
Arminius — Historical Drama
Cardiac — Action Thriller
Dear Satan — Comedy

Saving Mr. Banks — Drama
Ground Control to Major Tom — Romantic Comedy

Action No. 1 — Action Comedy
Vanish Man — Thriller

Glimmer  — Science Fiction

If you want to know what is fueling the Action, Thriller, Action Thriller frenzy, look no further than those slates above.

Also of the 12 science fiction specs that got set up last year, 9 of them are with the majors. That makes sense because sci-fi movies generally cost more to produce and are big tentpole type of projects.

Of the independent companies, Millennium Films was notably active in the spec script market in 2012:

High Value Target — Action
Lauren Pemberton Is No Longer In A Relationship — Romantic Comedy
Match — Romantic Comedy
My Owner’s Wedding — Romantic Comedy
Olympus Has Fallen — Action
Playing Dirty — Thriller

In 2011, they were involved in 3 spec script deals. Last year, 6. Since Millennium produced The Expendables which grossed $274M and The Expendables 2 which grossed $300M, they can afford to drop some serious coin on script acquisition and development.

Interesting that half of the projects they acquired in 2012 were rom-coms.

What do you take away from this information?

Tomorrow: Agents and managers.

3 thoughts on “2012 Spec Script Sales Analysis: Studios

  1. Shaula Evans says:

    Thank you again for all the work in putting this together, Scott. Fascinating stuff.

    (I swear I’m not asking you for more work, but if you have the information easily at hand, I’d love to see a post on how many of these spec sales were for scripts that have been on the Black List–only if it’s easy.)

    I have two thoughts:

    1. I wonder how spec script writers can/will use this data when deciding on their next project? ACT genres are the big winners, obviously. Beyond that, if you knew you wanted to pitch a script to a specific studio, what do the individual lists tell you?

    2. When I look at these lists, I see NOTHING that looks like my GOYOQ script, a black comedy. Now that either means that what I’ve written is far removed from what studios want–or else that no one else is writing anything like I’ve written, so there’s no competition out there. Realistically, what it probably means is that this is not a big studio picture (although if a big studio wants it I’m happy to talk!).

    That said, I’ll definitely keep all of this data in mind when I’m choosing my next project (very possible either a romcom or a buddy comedy/bromance that I put on the backburner for GOYOQ).

    1. Scott says:

      Shaula, I hit on a confluence of news items just today that is the basis of a new post that will serve as a counterbalance to studying the marketplace [look for that in the next few days]. Yes, we should be aware of who the players are, how movies are performing, what the buyers are buying. But at the end of the day, a movie is an expression of creativity, and that should always be the final determinative factor in what we choose to write.

      I’m just now in the process of interviewing scores of screenwriters, almost all of them who have had scripts on the Black List, and if there is one common thread through all their responses, it’s this: Write something for which you have passion. It’s that passion that will drive your ass to chair day after day to plow through the struggle of writing the script, that’s one thing. But also it’s your passion for your story and your characters that will make it come alive, lift it up off the printed page and into the imagination of a reader.

      So here’s to your black comedy! If it’s a story you love, you stand a much better chance of transmitting that energy and vitality to your pages. And if it’s a strong concept, if it’s well written, if it’s a MOVIE, and if readers respond to it in part because of the passion flowing through its words, you have to believe someone will see what you see in it. From there, the sky is the limit.

      I guess the bottom line is write with your feet on the ground — that is track and understand the current marketplace — but always keep your head in the clouds — believe in and write the stories which you love.

      1. Shaula Evans says:

        You know, my black comedy is a story I love, especially my protagonist, who is a magnificent bastard. (I’ve been calling him the Magnificent Bastard all along, the way pregnant couples have a nickname for their baby before it’s born!) I’m having a blast working on the script, and I think it’s got a good shot at finding a good home, and regardless of what does or doesn’t happen with the script, I don’t regret a minute that I’ve spent on it.

        I don’t see a conflict between analyzing the market and writing from the heart. I can’t write something I don’t believe in (for better or for worse, I used up my lifetime cynical hack quotient in careers long before I came to screenwriting), but I don’t see any problem with paying attention to the market and using market realities to narrow down your choices between different projects that you are excited about. I’m comfortable with my feet on the ground and my head in the clouds, too.

        I’ll look forward the new post on creativity.

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