What are the top 10 highest grossing movies in 2012?

January 25th, 2013 by

Per TheWrap, here are the top 10 highest grossing movies, domestic and international, from last year:

Marvel’s The Avengers: $1.5B

The Dark Knight Rises: $1.08B

Skyfall: $1.03B

The Hobbit: $888.3M

Ice Age: Continental Drift: $876.4M

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: $822.7M

The Amazing Spider-Man: $754.8M

Madagascar: Europe’s Most Wanted: $743.8M

The Hunger Games: $691.2M

Men In Black 3: $625M

Let’s see: Sequel, Sequel, Sequel, Prequel, Sequel, Sequel, Reboot, Sequel, Adaptation, Sequel. Hm. Is there a possible trend here?

If we drill down beneath this obvious news, we find something else: 9 of the 10 movies generated more revenue in international markets than domestic, most at least twice as much with Ice Age leading the way: $161.2M domestic / $715.2M foreign, which means 82% of revenues by this film derived from international box office.

The only movie in the top 10 that did not earn more dollars overseas was The Hunger Games: $408M domestic / $283.2M foreign. Why? Is the book series not popular overseas? The only movie in the top ten with a female lead? People internationally haven’t discovered how fantastic Jennifer Lawrence is? Your thoughts?

One takeaway for screenwriters: If you want Hollywood to froth over you and fling massive coinage your way? Write a franchise movie.

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.

2012 Spec Script Sales Analysis: Genres

January 21st, 2013 by

By my count, Hwood studios and production groups acquired 99 spec scripts in 2012. During this week, I’ll be breaking down those numbers.

Today we look at sales by genre. Some scripts are categorized as cross genres or sub-genres, so those are noted where relevant under their primary genre category.

Note: Genre designations are not scientific, so you have to understand these numbers are general.


Action Thriller 12
Action Crime 1
Action Fantasy 1
Action Heist 1
Action Romance 1
Action Supernatural 1

Contained Thriller 1
Crime Thriller 1
Psychological Thriller 1
Supernatural Thriller 1

Romantic Comedy 6
Action Comedy 2

Science Fiction Thriller 2
Science Fiction Action 1
Science Fiction Comedy 1
Science Fiction Romance 1

Drama Adventure 1
Drama Romance 1

Horror Thriller 4
Horror Supernatural 2


First let’s compare to 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

2008 (88 sales)


2009 (68 sales)


2010 (55 sales)


2011 (110 sales)


2012 (99 sales)


* The first thing that strikes me is how consistent the numbers were in terms of genre between 2011 and 2012: Action 29/27, Thriller 20/20, Comedy 19/20, Drama 14/10, Science Fiction 13/12, Horror 8/9. Granted this does not take into account all the other projects acquired over the course of the year such as pitches, nonfiction books, novels and the like, but apart from a decline in Drama, the numbers are remarkably the same. Does this suggest buyers are comfortable with the current approach to what areas on which they are focusing?

* Action and Thriller continue to top the charts, and everyone I talk to about this — managers, producers, writers — the first thing out of their mouths is “international market.” Action and Thriller movies are more visual in nature, less reliant on dialogue, thus more ‘translatable’ around the world. Plus — and this is a broad generalization — these two genres can tend to have more simplistic universe in terms of Bad Guys and Good Guys which also makes these movies more accessible to foreign audiences.

* Comedy has dropped precipitously since 2008 [by 50%] in terms of spec script sales and there exists something of a bad rap about the genre in Hollywood’s conventional wisdom in that the genre doesn’t ‘travel’ well internationally. Language issues, cultural specificity for jokes, and so forth. And yet it seems to have hit a bottom line in sales and is tied for 2nd in 2012. No matter what, comedies — especially those doable for a price — continue to be a favored genre in Hollywood.

* If you add up all the genres and sub-genres with Thriller in them in 2012, you come up with 36 spec script sales. That represents 36% of sales which means for the second year in a row, Thriller is #1 in the script acquisition market.

It appears the buyers are still in a ‘dark’ mood, I’m guessing because they figure that reflects the general sensibilities of movie audiences. Action, Thriller, Horror is well over 50% of spec script sales. And yet it’s interesting to note that Rom-Coms made a comeback in 2012 with 6 sales. Could that be a harbinger of more interest in lighter, more comedic fare?

What do you think when you look at these numbers? Will they have any impact on what stories you choose to write in 2013?

Head over to comments to post your observations and analysis of the year in spec script sales.

For the entire list of 99 spec script sales in the last year, go here.

Indiewire: 2012 Box Office Wrap-Up

January 8th, 2013 by

Cynics among us may quibble over the various typifications of movies [for example, why This is 40 is considered a Hit while Paranorman is typified as a Recouper]. But there is a lot to learn from analyzing this list, supplied by IndieWire. Check out these numbers:

As a screenwriter, I’ll tell you what I lock in on: Low Budget Hits. I don’t own the rights to a property like Pokemon, or a board game like Monopoly, or even Slinky: The Movie. But I generate and develop high concepts, and in trying to take the line of least resistance with buyers, that is write a spec script that is a great story and has no negatives [e.g., period piece, tough genre, difficult shoot), I have come up with a story that is all that, plus it’s a low-budget project.

If you check out the Low Budget Hits list, then cherry pick Hits like Chronicle [$12M budget] and Smashes like Magic Mike [$7M], low-budget, high-concept is definitely one consideration screenwriters should have when assessing potential spec script concepts.

How about you? What do you see in this list? What jumps out at you? I’ll see you in comments for your analysis of the 2012 box office.

For the whole IndieWire article, go here.

2012 Box Office Winners & Losers

January 5th, 2013 by

BoxOfficeMojo with its year-end overview of 2012’s winners and losers. For screenwriters, it is important to track these numbers because believe me everyone involved in script acquisition and development does. With all the pressure they feel from corporate overlords to succeed, they often respond to current market trends.

Per BOM, here are some winning areas for 2012 movies: Superheroes, Computer Animation, Channing Tatium, Lionsgate and perhaps the most shocking of all Politics. Per the latter:

Political movies tend not to perform well at the box office and, with the presidential election dominating headlines, it would have been easy to expect that to be the case again this year. Instead, movies with a political tie-in found tons of success in 2012.

The greatest example is Lincoln, which opened in nationwide release less than two weeks after the presidential election; by the end of the year, it has racked up a remarkable $134.2 million, and it still has plenty of money left to earn. Argo wasn’t quite as political as Lincoln—the context of the Iranian Hostage Crisis was secondary to the espionage thrills—though its $108.7 million gross in 2012 is still remarkable for a movie with such heavy real-world subject matter.

On the lighter end, Will FerrellZach Galifianakis comedy The Campaign quietly wound up being one of the biggest comedy hits of the year with $86.9 million. Finally, 2016 Obama’s America became the second-highest-grossing political documentary ever with $33.5 million.

If you ever wanted proof that in Hollywood, nobody knows anything, the performance of political movies this year is it. Conventional wisdom is that politics = box office death. Not so in 2012 and across the board in terms of genres.

As far as box office losers go, here is BOM’s targets: Horror, Taylor Kitsch, 3D Animated Re-Releases, Stop Motion Animation, and Romantic Comedy. Since we had a discussion on this yesterday, here are BOM’s analysis of rom-coms in 2012:

Romantic comedy used to be a thriving genre, but in recent years it has fallen off significantly. Excluding Ted (which is, first-and-foremost, a buddy comedy), the highest-grossing rom-com of 2012 was Think Like a Man with $91.5 million. Otherwise, though, it was a terrible year: What to Expect When You’re Expecting ($41.2 million), The Five-Year Engagement ($28.7 million), and Playing for Keeps ($12.7 million) were all major disappointments. Even Silver Linings Playbook, with all kinds of awards buzz, was only able to earn $28.7 million, though its roll-out was slower than expected and The Weinstein Company seems to have some tricks up its sleeve for early 2013 on this title.

One thing to remember with all of these year-end analyses: No trend is absolutely definitive. In fact, as for example with rom-coms, it’s not even clear the downturn in 2012 is a trend. Rather it could just be the movies weren’t that good or didn’t have the right chemistry-connection with audiences. There will always be a need for rom-coms, just like there will always be a need for horror. Likewise politics will continue to be a dicey arena. In all cases, it’s up to the writer to craft compelling, entertaining and fresh stories.

A final note on this last point: Over the last few weeks, I have been interviewing a bunch of screenwriters including 4 of the 5 Nicholl winners in 2012 and a number who made the 2012 Black List, and if there is one theme I see in all of them, other than great writing, it’s this: They each had a complete, total passion for the script they wrote. I am convinced that energy, combined with their immersion into the story universe as well as sheer writing talent, is what lifted the words from off the page and into the active imaginations of readers. This is especially important as many of the scripts we are talking about fly in the face of Hollywood conventional wisdom.

I will be rolling out those interviews here on GITS over the next several weeks and months, some incredible conversations with great insight. But again, as important as it is to be aware of box office and market trends, at the end of the day, you should be picking stories for which you have ample passion to write.

For more on 2012 box office winners, go here.

For more on 2012 box office losers, go here.

In the next few days, I will be featuring the ROI [Return On Investment] winners from 2012 which is generally a better model for assessing the success of movies than simply box office rank.

WGA 2013 Best Screenplay Nominations

January 4th, 2013 by

This year’s WGA screenplay nominations have been announced:


Flight, Written by John Gatins; Paramount Pictures

Looper, Written by Rian Johnson; TriStar Pictures

The Master, Written by Paul Thomas Anderson; The Weinstein Company

Moonrise Kingdom, Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola; Focus Features

Zero Dark Thirty, Written by Mark Boal; Columbia Pictures


Argo, Screenplay by Chris Terrio; Based on a selection from The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired Magazine article “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman; Warner Bros. Pictures

Life of Pi, Screenplay by David Magee; Based on the novel by Yann Martel; 20th Century Fox

Lincoln, Screenplay by Tony Kushner; Based in part on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin; DreamWorks Pictures

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Screenplay by Stephen Chbosky; Based on his book; Summit Entertainment

Silver Linings Playbook, Screenplay by David O. Russell; Based on the novel by Matthew Quick; The Weinstein Company


The Central Park Five, Written by Sarah Burns and David McMahon and Ken Burns; Sundance Selects

The Invisible War, Written by Kirby Dick; Cinedigm Entertainment Group

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, Written by Alex Gibney; HBO Documentary Films

Searching for Sugar Man, Written by Malik Bendejelloul; Sony Pictures Classics

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, Written by Brian Knappenberger; Cinetic Media

West of Memphis, Written by Amy Berg & Billy McMillin; Sony Pictures Classics

Congratulations, writers!

Analysis: 2012 Box Office

January 1st, 2013 by

Amidst this Vulture article assessing this last weekend at the box office, there is this year-end analysis:

Finally, despite a summer of unmitigated box office bombs, unspeakably dark nights (Aurora, Colorado) and summer movie attendance at a near twenty-year low, 2012 actually saw the movie business rebound after two back-to-back years of decline. Revenue was up 6 percent, and for once, it wasn’t because ticket prices were up 6 percent, too: More people went to the movies this year — 5.6 percent more people, actually.

The fact there was a rise in ticket sales despite a poor summer is attributable at least in part to this fact: There were a lot of really good movies this year including several dramas like Argo, Lincoln, and Flight that connected with the 35+ and older crowd, proving once again, if Hollywood will build it [i.e., good movies], people will come.

But then there’s this:

Still, one thing that won’t change regardless of which dimension you experience a film in is Hollywood’s reliance on the blockbuster franchise. Indeed, if you absorb no other fact about just how important they’ve become, make it this one: Theatrically released films grossed about $10.8 billion this year, but just five films in 2012 — The Avengers; The Dark Knight Rises; Skyfall; The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2; and The Hunger Games —accounted for nearly half ($4.99 billion) of that tally. Happy New Year.

While good movies count, franchises still rule.

For more of the Vulture article, go here.

More Movies Like This, Please: 2012 List

December 30th, 2012 by

I started something this year. Whenever I saw a new movie I liked, I would jump onto Twitter, identify the movie, then simply tweet this: “More movies like this, please.”

Then I thought, Why don’t I do an annual More Movies Like This, Please list?

What do I mean by “more movies like this, please”? Not big popcorn flicks. Hey, I love huge spectacle movies as much as the next guy, but we know Hollywood is going to make them, studios don’t need encouragement to produce prequels, sequels, remakes, tentpoles, and so forth.

Rather I’m talking about movies Hollywood seems to have a hard time committing to nowadays for a variety of reasons, most of them related to economics and conventional wisdom about what supposedly will work / won’t work.

Here are some of elements I’m looking for in my More Movies Like This, Please list:

* More adult dramas.

* More mid-budget movies [$25-50M], smaller stories that need larger budgets to be told well.

* More original movies [based on an original screenplay].

* More movies targeting people who love movies and appreciate the history of movies.

* More movies that represent the vision of one writer / writer-director or team of writers / writer-directors.

* More movies that explore interesting, unique and unusual subcultures.

* More movies that take risks.

* More movies that approach narrative in different ways.

* More cinematic movies.

* More quirky, whimsical, oddball movies reflecting a distinctive take on the world.

* More movies where the focus is on characters, not special effects.

* More movies that make me think.

* More movies that have no reason to exist other than the fact they have a great story to tell.

So here is my 2012 More Movies Like This, Please list:

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The
Cabin in the Woods, The
Cloud Atlas
Django Unchained
End of Watch
Grey, The
Hyde Park on Hudson
Intouchables, The
Life of Pi
Magic Mike
Master, The
Moonrise Kingdom
Perks of Being a Wallflower, The
Premium Rush
Ruby Sparks
Safety Not Guaranteed
Silver Linings Playbook
Sleepwalk With Me
Wreck-It Ralph
Zero Dark Thirty

I’m sure I missed some, but these are the titles that sprang to mind.

As far as I’m concerned, the two most important movies on the list this year: Argo and Looper. The former feels like the kind of movie Hollywood used to make all the time — an entertaining, engaging adult drama. The latter is a genre piece that makes a bold assumption audiences have the intellectual wherewithal to connect to a story with interesting ideas. Both are terrific films and I hope they spawn more movies like them.

However my absolute favorite movie of the year is Moonrise Kingdom. I loved everything about it: characters, concept, tone, pace, atmosphere, every frame of the film. And the dance scene on the beach is my favorite one from all of this year’s movies:

If there is a movie this year that represents the essence of More Movies Like This, Please, it is Moonrise Kingdom.

How about you? If you could tell Hollywood what movies you’d like to see more of — not movies you know the studios are going to make, but ones that deserve to be made — which ones from 2012 would you pick for your own More Movies Like This, Please?

Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtables: 2012

December 28th, 2012 by

Every year the Hollywood Reporter records a roundtable with notable figures involved in the film business. I’ve featured several of them here on GITS. Here is a post with all those links:

Actors Roundtable: Matt Damon, Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington, Richard Gere, Alan Arkin, John Hawkes.

Actresses Roundtable: Amy Adams, Anne Hathaway, Helen Hunt, Marion Cotillard, Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz, Sally Field.

Agents Roundtable: Blair Kohan, Debbee Klein, Leslie Siebert, Lorrie Bartlett, Maha Dakhil, Sharon Jackson.

Directors Roundtable: Ang Lee, Ben Affleck, David O. Russell, Gus Van Sant, Quentin Tarantino, Tobe Hooper.

Producers Roundtable: Bruce Cohen, Eric Felnner, Grant Heslov, Joanne Sellar, Philippa Boyens, Producers, Stacey Sher.

Screenwriters Roundtable: Chris Terrio, David Magee, John Krasinski, Judd Apatow, Mark Boal, Michael Haneke.

Studio Executives Roundtable: Donna Langley, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jim Gianopulos, Michael Barker, Rob Friedman, Rob Moore.

Each of these is a 1-hour video, well worth watching to provide you a pulse on what’s going on in Hollywood today.

“Rebounding at the Box Office”

December 27th, 2012 by

It’s that time of year where we get lots of analysis about the movie business over the previous 12 months. In Monday’s NYT, there’s this article titled, “Rebounding at the Box Office.” Some highlights:

Projections show that about 1.36 billion people will see films this year, compared with 1.29 billion in 2011. Ticket revenue at North American theaters is projected to jump by 6 percent, to $10.8 billion, according to Paul Dergarabedian, a box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. What really matters, however, is that Hollywood achieved the increase without raising prices.


Hollywood’s upswing is particularly notable because it comes despite a poor summer season, a period from the first full weekend in May to Labor Day when studios typically record 40 percent of their annual revenue. Summer ticket revenue dropped 3 percent and attendance hit a 19-year low. The July theater shootings in a Colorado theater kept some people home, but a lot of films were simply mediocre.

The fact domestic B.O. ticket sales rose to the degree they did with a poor summer session is significant. That suggests strength across the board in terms of the marketability of movies, marking an unusual amount of depth in content as compared to recent years. But as the NYT article points out:

Still, how Americans respond to movies became less important to studios in 2012. Look no further than “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” from 20th Century Fox, to understand why. North American ticket sales for “Continental Drift,” the fourth installment in the animated series, totaled $161 million, a 24 percent decline from “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” in 2009, after adjusting for inflation.

Then why is Fox thrilled with its performance and developing ideas for a fifth chapter? Because “Continental Drift” took in $714 million overseas, including $68 million in China alone. “This is a turning-point year for the relationship between China and Hollywood,” said Phil Contrino, editor of Boxoffice.com. “It’s becoming very clear how important China is to the worldwide gross of a film.”

2012. Mark that down as the year where the movie business started a significant pivot toward China. There was a 90% increase in B.O. there from imported movies. Indeed Life of Pi became the 2nd Hollywood movie to gross more in China than North America.

Then there’s the story of Lions Gate:

It was a particularly lucrative year for Lions Gate Entertainment, which includes both the Lionsgate and Summit banners. Along with “The Hunger Games,” the company had “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” which has so far generated $783 million in global ticket sales. According to Rentrak, a company that tracks box office data, Lions Gate, a small movie company that leapt forward with its acquisition of Summit Entertainment, will end the year as North America’s fifth-largest distributor as measured by ticket sales, surpassing 20th Century Fox and Paramount.

Common denominators: (1) Both movie franchises based on YA titles. (2) Both featuring a female Protagonist. (3) Both feature a combination of action and romance.

But for me, the biggest news item to arise from 2012 is the list of movies appealing to the adult crowd [35+], and especially Baby Boomers and Seniors. Lincoln, Magic Mike, Argo, Flight, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom just some of the films that succeeded both with critics and the adult crowd. The fact that all of these titles are original movies — not sequels, prequels, remakes — to go along with others like Ted, Safe House, Looper, Chronicle, and The Grey provides strong evidence to movie studios: Make more of these movies, please!

For more of the NYT article, go here.