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Reference for facts on movies (1 Viewer)

Blu Eye

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Not sure where I should post this thread but can anyone help with regards to using a source for finding out information about film releases?

Currently, it seems as though IMDB will be the best source for my fact finding.

Specific information I am looking for about films are as follows:

  1. US and Europe gross cinema sales
  2. The films budget and which studio bankrolled it
  3. Director & Screenwriter credits
Looking for a good reference guide that has been well researched.

Not sure how reliable IMDB is in relation to their information or if there are any other alternatives worth looking into.
 

Dennis Nicholls

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IMDB started out as a fan site, then later got bought by Amazon. Not much maintenance is performed on IMDB these days: I'm always getting "404 not found" messages when I'm reading off-site reviews.

Edit: holy heck, Amazon bought them in 1998.
 

jayembee

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It actually started out as a series of postings in the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.movies as people would often respond to someone's request to, for example, list all of Alfred Hitchcock's movies, or all movies with Cary Grant or Meryl Streep or whomever.

There were also postings by people that were referred to as "actresses I'd like to pork, and the movies they're in" ;) that is often cited as the real genesis (or one of them) of the IMDb. I imagine it was also the genesis of The Bare Facts Video Guide.

I have nostalgic feelings for the days when such information was to be found in books at the library. I still try to acquire film reference books here and there. The most recent find in a used bookstore a couple of weeks ago is The Encyclopedia of War Movies: The Authoritative Guide to Movies About Wars of the 20th Century by Robert Davenport (Checkmark Books, 2004).

I had managed to get an almost entire (extant) set of the American Film Institute Catalog, and was a bit disappointed that they chose to stop publishing it in book form, but continue it on-line (https://aficatalog.afi.com/). They managed to publish in book form volumes covering from 1893 through 1950, and 1961-1970. I'm missing only Film Beginnings, 1893-1910, as well as a side title, Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960. I've been lazy about trying to get them. I've been seduced by the Dark Side (the IMDb).

I also have all of the Overlook Encyclopedia of Film volumes (Aurum Encyclopedia of Film in the UK): The Western; Science Fiction; Horror; and Gangsters, and the various "The <studio> Story" (missing only The RKO Story), as well as a bunch of other studio-based or genre-based reference books.

One more thing. For box office info, there's https://www.boxofficemojo.com/
 
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Blu Eye

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It actually started out as a series of postings in the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.movies as people would often respond to someone's request to, for example, list all of Alfred Hitchcock's movies, or all movies with Cary Grant or Meryl Streep or whomever.

There were also postings by people that were referred to as "actresses I'd like to pork, and the movies they're in" ;) that is often cited as the real genesis (or one of them) of the IMDb. I imagine it was also the genesis of The Bare Facts Video Guide.

I have nostalgic feelings for the days when such information was to be found in books at the library. I still try to acquire film reference books here and there. The most recent find in a used bookstore a couple of weeks ago is The Encyclopedia of War Movies: The Authoritative Guide to Movies About Wars of the 20th Century by Robert Davenport (Checkmark Books, 2004).

I had managed to get an almost entire (extant) set of the American Film Institute Catalog, and was a bit disappointed that they chose to stop publishing it in book form, but continue it on-line (https://aficatalog.afi.com/). They managed to publish in book form volumes covering from 1893 through 1950, and 1961-1970. I'm missing only Film Beginnings, 1893-1910, as well as a side title, Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960. I've been lazy about trying to get them. I've been seduced by the Dark Side (the IMDb).

I also have all of the Overlook Encyclopedia of Film volumes (Aurum Encyclopedia of Film in the UK): The Western; Science Fiction; Horror; and Gangsters, and the various "The <studio> Story" (missing only The RKO Story), as well as a bunch of other studio-based or genre-based reference books.

One more thing. For box office info, there's https://www.boxofficemojo.com/

Actually, what I meant to say in my post was specifically any books as a reference guide as I would presume it would be more reliable and the references could be checked etc.

Do you know of any books that have been published lately specifically for movies made since the year 2000 to present day?

Thanks for the Box Office Mojo link. That looks like a brilliant source to check with. Never heard of them either.

Looks like I will have to refer to that as my primary source unless there is some published encyclopaedic book guide on movies release theatrically.
 

Blu Eye

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IMDB started out as a fan site, then later got bought by Amazon. Not much maintenance is performed on IMDB these days: I'm always getting "404 not found" messages when I'm reading off-site reviews.

Edit: holy heck, Amazon bought them in 1998.

Not much Amazon does not own these days.

Taking over the world.

The next bond movie should have the Amazon CEO as the main villain.
 

jayembee

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Actually, what I meant to say in my post was specifically any books as a reference guide as I would presume it would be more reliable and the references could be checked etc.

Do you know of any books that have been published lately specifically for movies made since the year 2000 to present day?

Thanks for the Box Office Mojo link. That looks like a brilliant source to check with. Never heard of them either.

Looks like I will have to refer to that as my primary source unless there is some published encyclopaedic book guide on movies release theatrically.

(1) Well, one might think so, but books can be just as error-prone as on-line sources. Or have incomplete information.

(2) No, sorry, I don't.

(4) There's also this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Motion_Picture_Guide

When I lived down in the Boston area, I used to occasionally visit the Brandeis University Library, which had a set of TMPG. I've bought some of the later Annuals, but don't have the original set.

There are a couple of other annual-volume series that I have some of:

John Willis' Screen World. I have a couple of dozen volumes from the 1960s to the late 1990s.
International Film Guide / Variety's International Film Guide. I have about a dozen and a half volumes, same date range. The volumes I have under the earlier title was published by Tantivy in the UK; the latter by Samuel French in US. They seem to be pretty much a single run.

I'm not sure how long either of these has continued. A quick search suggests that Screen World goes up to at least 2009, and Variety's International Screen Guide goes up to at least 2004.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I don’t think there’s a single “one size fits all” reference that works for all films for all eras, unfortunately. Everything mentioned in this thread can be a good resource, none are infallible. Depending on what your goal for the research is, your best bet in many cases will to cross reference different sources.
 

Blu Eye

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I don’t think there’s a single “one size fits all” reference that works for all films for all eras, unfortunately. Everything mentioned in this thread can be a good resource, none are infallible. Depending on what your goal for the research is, your best bet in many cases will to cross reference different sources.

Yes. It looks that way.

I assumed there must be some kind of a dictionary of movies where a single page is devoted to each type of film and its box office data etc.

With the amount of people out there that have a passion for cinema I would have thought someone would have attempted to publish such a thing.

I think the sources provided in this thread will suffice and will allow me to get the relevant information I am looking for.

Does anyone know if Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide books contain box office sales data?
 

jayembee

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Yes. It looks that way.

I assumed there must be some kind of a dictionary of movies where a single page is devoted to each type of film and its box office data etc.

With the amount of people out there that have a passion for cinema I would have thought someone would have attempted to publish such a thing.

I think the sources provided in this thread will suffice and will allow me to get the relevant information I am looking for.

Does anyone know if Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide books contain box office sales data?

I haven't picked up one of Maltin's Movie Guides (or any of the similar guides) in quite a while, but he didn't used to include box office data, and it's unlikely that he does now. That type of guide is generally just basic information like title, date, and some of the cast, a brief description of what it's about, and a star rating. The purpose of the guide is just to give the reader an idea of whether they might be interested in a given movie they might come across while surfing their cable (or now, streaming) service.

Over the years, as the number of movies ballooned, he's had to weed some movies out with each successive volume, so it's unlikely that he'd include information such as box office data that's basically irrelevant to the guide's purpose.

The problem with the idea that "someone would have attempted to publish such a thing" is that it's too big a project. I have a large collection of reference books. Not just on films, but books, comics, and other things. Over the past few decades, a lot of such books have gone OOP or in the case of continuing updates, just die on the vine. If they continue at all, they've moved to CD-ROM or the internet. And in the latter case, the data is crowd-sourced, and ends up spreading a lot of misinformation. Published books often spread misinformation, too, but the internet does it more quickly and efficiently.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Box office data is tricky for several reasons. Studios don’t like to reveal what things actually cost, and when they do, there’s often a lot of complex math around the numbers and what they mean. It’s why there’s a whole cottage industry of lawsuits against studios for not properly paying their talent. There was a big lawsuit several years ago over Lord of the Rings - Peter Jackson was entitled by his contract to a certain percentage of the profits, and the studio took the position that the films all lost money and therefore Jackson wasn’t entitled to anything. That kind of thing happens more than it should. A website like Box Office Mojo will list what a film has grossed at the box office and that raw data is usually correct, but the budgets listed may not be accurate, so it becomes hard to determine exactly how much of a success or failure a film actually was. The budget numbers also rarely take into account what a studio spends to promote a film. You can look at a new blockbuster like Avengers Endgame and it’s hard to get an exact picture of what the expenses are. They spend about $300 million to produce the film, but then the studio got various rebates and tax incentives for shooting in certain areas and for doing effects and other post production work in different ones - so who knows what the out of pocket cost actually was. Then, they spent about $300 million to promote it worldwide - that usually doesn’t get charged to the production budget but it’s nonetheless an unavoidable cost of doing business. But Marvel is owned by Disney which also owns TV networks and websites where some of those advertisements played. Does it really count as spending if the company’s left hand pays the company’s right hand for something? And then the movie made billions at the box office, but the studio doesn’t get every penny from that, and in certain territories (like China) it can be nearly impossible to get the money out of the country. If Disney makes $500 million in China (for example) but can’t get the money out of China, how does that factor in how profitable the film was?

So that as an example is how you can have access to a whole bunch of numbers without getting a complete picture of the whole story. And that’s more or less movie accounting in a nutshell.
 

Blu Eye

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Box office data is tricky for several reasons. Studios don’t like to reveal what things actually cost, and when they do, there’s often a lot of complex math around the numbers and what they mean. It’s why there’s a whole cottage industry of lawsuits against studios for not properly paying their talent. There was a big lawsuit several years ago over Lord of the Rings - Peter Jackson was entitled by his contract to a certain percentage of the profits, and the studio took the position that the films all lost money and therefore Jackson wasn’t entitled to anything. That kind of thing happens more than it should. A website like Box Office Mojo will list what a film has grossed at the box office and that raw data is usually correct, but the budgets listed may not be accurate, so it becomes hard to determine exactly how much of a success or failure a film actually was. The budget numbers also rarely take into account what a studio spends to promote a film. You can look at a new blockbuster like Avengers Endgame and it’s hard to get an exact picture of what the expenses are. They spend about $300 million to produce the film, but then the studio got various rebates and tax incentives for shooting in certain areas and for doing effects and other post production work in different ones - so who knows what the out of pocket cost actually was. Then, they spent about $300 million to promote it worldwide - that usually doesn’t get charged to the production budget but it’s nonetheless an unavoidable cost of doing business. But Marvel is owned by Disney which also owns TV networks and websites where some of those advertisements played. Does it really count as spending if the company’s left hand pays the company’s right hand for something? And then the movie made billions at the box office, but the studio doesn’t get every penny from that, and in certain territories (like China) it can be nearly impossible to get the money out of the country. If Disney makes $500 million in China (for example) but can’t get the money out of China, how does that factor in how profitable the film was?

So that as an example is how you can have access to a whole bunch of numbers without getting a complete picture of the whole story. And that’s more or less movie accounting in a nutshell.

Yes. Was aware of the accounting trickery by the studios and their shenanigans to avoid paying a percentage of "profits" to the directors etc.

If I was a director or any other major talent working with or for them I would definitely take a fee for my performances either before or during the shooting project of the movie itself.

Obviously it is very difficult to get accurate figures with these things.

I just need a basic guide for what I am doing. It's not paramount the data I want is 100% accurate.

As long as I can discern if a movie either did very well or if it only got a small audience in cinemas that is all I need.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Understood. Worth keeping in mind that “very well” is a movable goal post - “Batman V Superman” grossed about $850 million dollars in 2016 which sounds extraordinary, and played for large audiences, but the movie cost over $200 million to make and over $200 million to market so that result was considered a failure. Around the same time, “Get Out” grossed around $200 million which doesn’t sound like a lot by comparison, but that only cost about $5 million to make - they almost certainly spent much more than that to market it but it all still came in well below the final gross.

Then there’s the issue of how long it took the film to make its money. “Knives Out” cost $40 million to produce and grossed about $300 million worldwide. But it played for a longer than usual period slowly adding to its gross each week. Now what happens with grosses is that the studio usually takes 90-95% of the first two weekends and then their percentage declines after that. This means that the longer Knives Out played, the more beneficial it was for theaters showing it, while the studio made less and less. “The Greatest Showman” is another similar example. Although those films finished their box office runs with impressive numbers, it wasn’t as profitable for the studio as it would have been if they made their money much faster.

Companies like Netflix who are primarily in the streaming business are now paying talent much more than conventional studios are, but the trade off is that it’s a lump sum that doesn’t change if the movie exceeds expectations. Both models can be successful for the talent though. They’re just different.
 

Blu Eye

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Understood. Worth keeping in mind that “very well” is a movable goal post - “Batman V Superman” grossed about $850 million dollars in 2016 which sounds extraordinary, and played for large audiences, but the movie cost over $200 million to make and over $200 million to market so that result was considered a failure. Around the same time, “Get Out” grossed around $200 million which doesn’t sound like a lot by comparison, but that only cost about $5 million to make - they almost certainly spent much more than that to market it but it all still came in well below the final gross.

Then there’s the issue of how long it took the film to make its money. “Knives Out” cost $40 million to produce and grossed about $300 million worldwide. But it played for a longer than usual period slowly adding to its gross each week. Now what happens with grosses is that the studio usually takes 90-95% of the first two weekends and then their percentage declines after that. This means that the longer Knives Out played, the more beneficial it was for theaters showing it, while the studio made less and less. “The Greatest Showman” is another similar example. Although those films finished their box office runs with impressive numbers, it wasn’t as profitable for the studio as it would have been if they made their money much faster.

Companies like Netflix who are primarily in the streaming business are now paying talent much more than conventional studios are, but the trade off is that it’s a lump sum that doesn’t change if the movie exceeds expectations. Both models can be successful for the talent though. They’re just different.

Too true.
 

Dennis Nicholls

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I have nostalgic feelings for the days when such information was to be found in books at the library. I still try to acquire film reference books here and there. The most recent find in a used bookstore a couple of weeks ago is The Encyclopedia of War Movies: The Authoritative Guide to Movies About Wars of the 20th Century by Robert Davenport (Checkmark Books, 2004).
I feel the same way about classical music recordings. For decades the source was the Penguin Guides. I stopped throwing out the old ones many years ago. Right now I have the Penguin Guides from 1999 and 2008, the latter being almost the very last one that went to print. Amazon product All 1588 pages of useful stuff.

To access many of the on-line classical review sites, you now have to pay a monthly fee. Forget that nonsense.
 

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