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By Hammad Zaidi | September 6, 2011

Over the past few years, all I heard is how comic books and graphic novels have all but taken over the development coffers of Hollywood, and how the value of an original thought – i.e. an original screenplay – has gone the way of the dinosaur. The thought of having original content be deemed passé kills me just a little every time I imagine a world where sequels to comic book franchises are our only cinematic options at first-run theaters. Thus, I took it upon myself to do a little research on what kinds of source material is getting produced and distributed these days. Much to my surprise, the outlook is brighter for original content creators than I thought. After making phone calls and sending e-mails, I stumbled across a chart from, which confirmed the consensus of my research: original content is still viable. This breakdown (below) details exactly what kinds of films are seeing green (lights) these days. Thus, today we’re going to discuss the top five sources for film success, which collectively account for 84.43% of the 2011 box office thus far.

The information below is from

Market Share for Each Source in 2011

Rank Source Movies 2011 Gross Tickets Share
1 Original Screenplay 234 $3.03B 380.012M 43.22%
2 Based on Book/Short Story 52 $1.23B 154.69M 17.59%
3 Based on Comic/Graphic Novel 10 $736.72M 92.44M 10.51%
4 Based on TV 6 $620.48M 77.85M 8.86%
5 Based on Magazine Article 13 $298.15M 37.41M 4.25%
6 Based on Real Life Events 125 $250.59M 31.44M 3.58%
7 Disney Ride 1 $240.46M 30.17M 3.43%
8 Remake 12 $237.05M 29.74M 3.38%
9 Traditional/Legend/Fairytale 5 $188.92M 23.70M 2.70%
10 Based on Play 8 $163.67M 20.54M 2.34%
11 Based on Game 1 $6.95M 871K .10%
12 Compilation 2 $1.37M 172K .02%
13 Based on Factual Book/Article 1 $1.10M 138K .02%
14 Based on Musical/Opera 1 $4.91K 616 .00%

#1 – Original Screenplays Roar Into The Lion’s Share
Clearly the most surprising discovery for me is that based on the 471 films the above study was based on, 234 of them (43.22%) came from original screenplays. While this may be a sign that the cinematic apocalypse may not explode in 2012 like the world is predicted to, we must take into account that many of these films produced from original screenplays were not as financially significant as their major studio tent pole counterparts. Never the less, original screenplays have earned $3.028 billion at the box office in 2011, so it looks like the pendulum is swinging back toward original content, so if you’re a writer, start formulating those original thoughts again.

#2 – Books and Short Stories Offer Built-In Audiences
With $1.232 billion eared at the box office, accounting for 17.59% of the market share, films based on books and short stories are the only other multi-billion dollar segment of the 2011 market share. Furthermore, motion pictures based on books have always enjoyed great success at the Oscars, winning 16 “Best-Picture” awards over a recent 25-year span.

While such dominance may mean audiences love films about books, it also means Academy voters are more likely to nominate and ultimately vote for projects that are borne from wildly successful source material. The funny thing about the multi-generation romance between books and the films that rarely do their written word justice is, most avid readers are not avid moviegoers, and most avid movie goers are not regular readers. However, developing a film based on best-selling novel alerts millions of fans of the novel that a visual version of the story is “coming soon.” Of course, anytime you can have millions of potential moviegoers in your corner before you lens the first frame of your picture, you have more than a leg up on your competition upon the release of your film.

#3 – Based on a Comic/Graphic Novel
Surprisingly, only 10.51% of the 2011 box-office take ($736.718 million) is from films based on comic books or graphic novels. Could the onslaught of comic book films start to let up? I highly doubt it, especially after Disney bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, and Warner Brothers bought DC Comics in a reaction to Disney’s acquisition of Marvel.

Even though only 10% of the films released so far in 2011 are based on comic books and graphic novels, most of them are of the highest budgeted films produced and released this year, so don’t expect this trend to fade away too quickly.

#4 – Based On TV
With 8.86% of the market share, and $620.482 million dollars earned at the box office, movies originating from television shows have done quite well in 2011. Moviegoers are conditioned to watch TV shows for free, so it’s surprising to me that so much money is earned by TV-to-film productions. However, many of these productions tend to be based on older TV shows, thus the nostalgia factor comes into play. It also doesn’t hurt that the viewers of such shows tend to be “longer in the tooth,” meaning they are more financially secure and have a bit more disposable income to spend on nostalgic films.

#5 – Based On Magazine Article
With 4.25% of the market share and $298.125 million at the box office, films based on magazine articles round out the top five source material types for motion pictures in 2011. Much like the fascination over films based on books, films based on magazine articles have the advantage of having a built in audience before they even start lensing the picture.

The other advantage for filmmakers seeking to develop a film based on a magazine article is that these acquisitions tend to be more cost-effective than buying the film rights to a novel.

That’s the insight I have for you today. Remember, the information in this article isn’t just mumbo jumbo facts and figures, it reveals up-to-date trends on how American moviegoers are spending their money on filmed entertainment. Like always, information is power, and it’s my mission to deliver you all the power you need to “Go Bionic!”

I hope everyone had a relaxing Labor Day weekend. I thank you again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday!

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  1. AHK says:

    Thanks for uplifting my morning. Curious to know if you have the same breakdown for previous years. Is this an upward, downward or average trend?

  2. Bwakathaboom says:

    Don’t go dusting off that art-house spec script just yet. I love this column but I see the numbers telling a much different story than the one you’re pitching.

    There’s a lot of movies splitting that “original screenplay” pie and only a few splitting the “comic book” revenue. If you average it out per-film you get:

    $12,948,717 in domestic revenue per original screenplay
    $23,653,846 in domestic revenue per comic popcorn movie.

    I also stress “domestic revenue” because that’s all that’s being quoted by, which makes the whole argument moot because if you included foreign revenue the popcorn movies would crush original material by an even wider margin (as if near double wasn’t enough).

    I don’t want to rain on the parade, just pointing out that the studio bean counters are seeing a much different picture.

    On the other hand it leaves a lot of room for indies to fill in the gaps that studios are no longer catering to, so it’s not all bad.

  3. Michelle Shyman says:

    It is enlightening to see how skewed in favor or original material the B.O. numbers are.

    Enlightening and encouraging.

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