Ian Clayman
Study: Determining the Relationship between “Large CastMarketed” Films and Box Office Success
Before I begin I’d like to briefly explain how the subject of my research evolved, as I feel it will
help clarify exactly what I mean by the term “large cast-marketed film.” When I began researching
a topic for this paper I chose to focus on films with ensemble casts, which are classically defined
as casts in which the focus of the story is shared almost equally between multiple characters.
However, I soon realized that the term had also come to describe casts with many “big name”
performers (also known as “all-star casts”), regardless of how screen time was divided. With
Professor Messaris’ help I came to the conclusion that the term had grown too nebulous for a single
clear definition, and that in order to properly conduct my research I would have to familiarize
myself with every film’s plot and cast in excruciating detail to determine whether it fit into the
first or second definition. It was at this point that I decided to create my own term to describe the
category of film I wanted to focus on.
As I define it, a “large cast-marketed” film is a film which, quite simply, attempts to market itself
on a cast whose members are represented, if not evenly, then still prominently. To this end, I
determined two criteria for a large cast-marketed film: first, that five or more unique characters
are shown in pre-release material (in the case of this study I chose to look solely at movie posters
and DVD/Blu-Ray cover art1); and second, that at least five or more characters appear in multiple
posters in groups. To clarify the first criterion, unique characters refer to a completely naïve
audience’s reaction to an image (for instance, in a particular “Spider-Man 3” poster the eponymous
hero is shown in both his classic and black costumes, but since the naïve viewer would not realize
that this is the same character I counted it as two unique characters.) If a character is recognizable
from one poster to the next they are only counted one time, and a character must be prominently
displayed in an image in order to be counted. As for the second criterion, I looked at trends in
promotional material to determine how prominently certain characters were featured. I paid
particular attention to the size of groups in each image, which characters carried over between
images and how exactly characters were displayed in an image, focusing on pose, size and
placement in the composition. I also focused on whether a character or actor’s name could be
found in an image in deciding just how important their representation was. I finally concluded
that if and only if both conditions were satisfied then the film’s marketing department was
attempting to sell the film on its large cast.
After I determined the exact qualifications I would be utilizing in my research, I then proceeded
to analyze the marketing material for the top 10 grossing films in the US from 2000 to 2013, for
130 films total. Of these, I determined that 41 met the conditions for a “large cast-marketed film,”
and organized these films by domestic revenue, genres represented and placement in the top 102.
1
Posters and cover art were found using <movieposterdb.com> and <imdb.com>. Since I was only concerned with
domestic revenue I chose to only look at images released in the US.
2
All revenue data courtesy of <boxofficemojo.com>
Starting with Top 10 placement, while there is no clear trend over the course of the last thirteen
years certain trends can be seen when looking at a few years at a time. For instance, from 2000 to
2005 there is a clear upsweep in the domestic reception of “large cast-marketed” films, with the
average position increasing almost every year (8.5 in 2000, 5.4 in 2001, 4.25 in 2002, 5.67 in 2003,
3.33 in 2004 and 2.5 in 2005.) Then from 2006 until 2011 we can see the average placement
decrease, with only one “large cast-marketed” film in the Top 10 for 2009, and only making it to
the number 9 spot. However, in the last two years the trend has reversed itself once again, with
“large cast-marketed” films taking the highest and lowest spots on the Top 10 in 2012 and 4 films
in the Top 10 for 2013. However, the oscillating nature of this trend line does little to help predict
the future successes of “large cast-marketed” films, although it should be noted that the averages
for the past three years are very slightly better than those from 2000 to 2002 (8.0, 5.33 and 4.25
compared to 8.5, 5.4 and 4.25), so the data suggests that these films may fare slightly better moving
forward than their competitors.
Position of "Large Cast Marketed" Films in the Top 10
Domestic Grossing Films, 2000-2013
2000
1
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Position
Trendline (Polynomial Equation)
Moving on to revenue, the data is once again makes it difficult to find a single overarching trend,
but short term trends are visible. For instance, the average gross per film and single highest gross
per film from 2000 to 2004 follows the same pattern as the position of films did, increasing almost
continuously during those five years. The reasons for this should be obvious, as 2001, 2003 and
2004 all saw “large cast-marketed” films take the number one spot on the Top 10, , with improved
rankings for the other films that made the list (with the exception of a 10th rank for one film in
2003.) Other points of interest are that in 2010 “large cast-marketed” films had their highest total
revenue (while also being tied for the highest number of those films to make the Top 10) and
2012’s “The Avengers” earning the most for a single film with $623.4 million. Unfortunately,
with the number of “large-cast marketed” films making the Top 10 and their total and individual
revenues following no discernable pattern it is impossible to conclude from this data that these
films have become more or less successful in the last thirteen years. Add to this the oscillating
nature of their positions on the Top 10 Domestic Gross list and overall no real pattern emerges.
Revenue of "Large Cast-Marketed Films", 2000-2013
$1,600.0
$1,500.0
$1,400.0
$1,300.0
$1,200.0
$1,100.0
$1,000.0
$900.0
$800.0
$700.0
2
$600.0
$500.0
$400.0
$300.0
$200.0
$100.0
2000
5
5
5
4.5
44
4
3.5
3
3
3
3
3
3
2.5
2
2
2
1.5
1
1
1
0.5
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
0
2013
"Large Cast-Marketed" Films Sum Gross (Domestic, Millions)
Average Gross Per Film
Most Made By a Single Film
Number of "Large Cast Marketed" Films
Finally, looking at genre reveals something that, while having no major impact on revenue, is
interesting from a storytelling standpoint. Genre breakdown for all Top 10 grossing films versus
“large cast-marketed” films in the Top 10 reveals that there is almost no difference at all for the 5
most saturated genres (adventure, action, fantasy, comedy and animation), and while the genres of
horror, musical, biography and sports are not represented by “large cast-marketed” films
considering that they only make up 2% or less each of all films this can be seen as a negligible
difference. What is interesting is the disparity between dramas and thrillers. While dramas make
up 13.8% of all films in the Top 10 from 2000 to 2013, not a single “large cast-marketed” film can
be considered a drama. As for thrillers, while 12.3% of all films are thrillers the genre only appears
in 7.3% of “large cast-marketed” films. The thrillers in question are “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Fast Five”
and “Fast & Furious 6,” with the latter film holding the number five spot on this year’s Top 10 and
the highest ranked of the three. From this data I would conclude that marketing departments are
reluctant to try to sell thrillers or dramas as films which follow multiple characters. At the risk of
losing objectivity, it seems to me that the people in charge of marketing understand the isolated
nature of protagonists in these kinds of films, and whether or not there are multiple important
characters in the story (for instance, promotional material for “The Dark Knight,” a drama, featured
5 unique characters but only one recurring across most, if not all, images) it is important to focus
on only one or two to preserve that sense of isolation.
70.0%
70.7%
69.2%
Genre Representation in Films
60.0%
56.2%
58.5%
50.0%
40.0%
34.1%
33.8%
35.4%
31.7%
30.0%
29.3%
23.1%
20.0%
10.0%
0.0%
Percentage for All Films
Percentage for "Large Cast-Marketed" Films
So while it would seem that “large cast-marketed” films have not seen any increase or decrease in
success in the past thirteen years, there is a difference in what films are marketed as such. Genre
appears to define what films boast having a large cast, which shows that marketing departments
have a generally strong understanding of the material they are promoting (if that was ever in any
doubt. Given more time for this study I would have liked to either have looked at a greater number
of films from this period or gone back further to see if the oscillating nature of these films’ success
is a long-standing trend or one that has only recently developed. It would also make sense to have
more people review the promotional material available, as it is difficult to be objective with only
one researcher. However, I hope that I have presented my data as unbiased as possible, and that
all conclusions drawn are justified by the information presented.
All Films Used in Study
Title
Domestic
Gross
(Millions)
Unique
Characters in
Marketing
Average
Characters in
Marketing
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
$260.0
2
1
Comedy/Family/Fantasy
Cast Away
$233.6
1
1
Adventure/Drama
Mission: Impossible II
$215.4
2
1
Action/Adventure/Thriller
MPAA
Rating
Genres
Gladiator
$187.7
3
1
Action/Adventure/Drama
What Women Want
$182.8
2
2
Comedy/Fantasy/Romance
The Perfect Storm
$182.6
4
0
Action/Adventure/Drama
Meet the Parents
$166.2
3
2
Comedy/Romance
X-Men
$157.3
10
10
PG-13
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Scary Movie
$157.0
7
6
R
Comedy
What Lies Beneath
$155.5
2
2
Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone
$317.6
8
7
PG
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
$313.4
12
10
PG-13
Shrek
$267.7
4
4
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Monsters, Inc.
$255.9
9
3
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Rush Hour 2
$226.2
3
2
Action/Comedy/Crime
The Mummy Returns
$202.0
6
5
Pearl Harbor
$198.5
3
3
Ocean's Eleven
$183.4
13
5
Jurassic Park III
$181.2
1
0
Planet of the Apes (2001)
$180.0
5
5
Spider-Man
$403.7
3
1
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
$339.8
11
10
PG-13
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
$302.2
11
8
PG
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets
$261.9
11
3
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
$241.4
9
6
Signs
$228.0
4
0
Austin Powers in Goldmember
$213.3
5
5
Men in Black II
$190.4
3
2
Action/Comedy/Sci-Fi
Ice Age
$176.4
4
4
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Chicago
$170.7
3
3
Comedy/Crime/Musical
LotR: The Return of the King
$377.0
13
6
Finding Nemo
$339.7
8
2
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the…
$305.4
4
4
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
The Matrix Reloaded
$281.6
8
3
Action/Sci-Fi
Bruce Almighty
$242.8
1
1
Comedy/Drama/Fantasy
X2: X-Men United
$214.9
12
6
Elf
$173.4
1
1
Drama/Horror/Mystery
PG-13
Adventure/Family/Fantasy
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Action/Drama/Romance
PG-13
Crime/Thriller
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
PG-13
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Action/Fantasy
Adventure/Family/Fantasy
PG
Comedy/Romance
Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller
PG-13
PG-13
PG-13
Action/Crime/Comedy
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Comedy/Family/Fantasy
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
$150.4
2
2
Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller
The Matrix Revolutions
$139.3
5
3
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Cheaper by the Dozen
$138.6
14
14
PG
Comedy/Family
Shrek 2
$441.2
11
7
PG
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Spider-Man 2
$373.6
3
2
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
The Passion of the Christ
$370.3
1
1
Drama
Meet the Fockers
$279.3
6
6
PG-13
Comedy/Romance
The Incredibles
$261.4
8
5
PG
Animation/Action/Adventure
Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban
$249.5
12
3
Adventure/Family/Fantasy
The Day After Tomorrow
$186.7
0
0
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
The Bourne Supremacy
$176.2
1
1
Action/Crime/Thriller
National Treasure
$173.0
2
1
Action/Adventure/Mystery
The Polar Express
$162.8
2
1
Animation/Adventure/Family
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
$380.3
9
4
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch…
$291.7
7
5
PG
Adventure/Family/Fantasy
Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire
$290.0
10
6
PG-13
Adventure/Family/Fantasy
War of the Worlds
$234.3
2
2
Adventure/Sci-Fi/Thriller
King Kong
$218.1
4
1
Action/Adventure/Drama
Wedding Crashers
$209.3
2
2
Comedy/Romance
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
$206.5
7
2
Adventure/Comedy/Family
Batman Begins
$205.3
6
1
Action/Adventure/Crime
Madagascar
$193.6
10
4
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
$186.3
2
2
Action/Comedy/Romance
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
$423.3
4
3
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Night at the Museum
$250.9
5
1
Action/Adventure/Comedy
Cars
$244.1
12
3
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
X-Men: The Last Stand
$234.4
13
5
PG-13
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
The Da Vinci Code
$217.5
5
2
Mystery/Thriller
Superman Returns
$200.1
3
1
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Happy Feet
$198.0
3
1
Animation/Comedy/Family
Ice Age: The Meltdown
$195.3
4
4
Animation/Action/Adventure
Casino Royale
$167.4
4
1
Action/Crime/Thriller
The Pursuit of Happyness
$163.6
4
2
Biography/Drama
Spider-Man 3
$336.5
6
2
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Shrek the Third
$322.7
10
5
PG
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Transformers
$319.2
6
6
PG-13
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
$309.4
6
5
PG-13
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix
$292.0
14
3
Adventure/Family/Fantasy
I Am Legend
$256.4
1
1
Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller
The Bourne Ultimatum
$227.5
1
1
Action/Crime/Thriller
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
$220.0
6
1
Action/Adventure/Mystery
Alvin and the Chipmunks
$217.3
4
3
Animation/Comedy/Family
300
$210.6
5
1
Action/Fantasy/Horror
The Dark Knight
$533.3
5
1
Action/Crime/Drama
Iron Man
$318.4
5
1
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Indiana Jones & the Temple of the Crystal…
$317.1
5
5
Hancock
$227.9
2
1
Action/Fantasy
WALL-E
$223.8
4
2
Animation/Adventure/Family
Kung Fu Panda
$215.4
8
6
Twilight
$192.8
10
2
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
$180.0
10
10
Quantum of Solace
$168.4
4
2
Action/Adventure/Crime
Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!
$154.5
11
2
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
PG-13
PG
Action/Adventure
Animation/Action/Adventure
Drama/Fantasy/Romance
PG
Animation/Action/Adventure
Avatar
$749.8
6
2
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
$402.1
6
4
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
$302.0
11
4
Adventure/Family/Fantasy
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
$296.6
14
3
Adventure/Drama/Fantasy
Up
$293.0
6
3
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
The Hangover
$277.3
9
3
Comedy
Star Trek
$257.7
8
3
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
The Blind Side
$256.0
2
2
Biography/Drama/Sport
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
$219.6
6
6
Sherlock Holmes
$209.0
4
2
Toy Story 3
$415.0
27
16
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
$334.2
8
3
Iron Man 2
$312.4
7
6
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
$300.5
7
3
Adventure/Drama/Fantasy
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1
$296.0
14
3
Adventure/Family/Fantasy
Inception
$292.6
8
6
PG-13
PG
Animation/Comedy/Family
Action/Adventure/Crime
G
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Adventure/Family/Fantasy
PG-13
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Action/Adventure/Mystery
Despicable Me
$251.5
7
5
PG
Animation/Comedy/Crime
Shrek Forever After
$238.7
10
6
PG
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
How to Train Your Dragon
$217.6
8
2
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Tangled
$200.8
3
3
Animation/Comedy/Family
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2
$381.0
14
3
Adventure/Family/Fantasy
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
$352.4
8
3
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1
$281.3
9
3
Adventure/Drama/Fantasy
The Hangover Part II
$254.5
5
3
Comedy
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
$241.1
8
4
Fast Five
$209.8
12
8
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
$209.4
6
4
Action/Thriller
Cars 2
$191.5
8
4
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
$186.8
5
2
Action/Adventure/Crime
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
PG-13
Action/Crime/Thriller
Thor
$181.0
8
5
PG-13
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
The Avengers
$623.4
11
7
PG-13
Action/Fantasy
The Dark Knight Rises
$448.1
8
3
Action/Crime/Thriller
The Hunger Games
$408.0
8
1
Adventure/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Skyfall
$304.4
7
1
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
$303.0
16
5
Action/Adventure/Thriller
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
$292.3
18
3
Adventure/Drama/Fantasy
The Amazing Spider-Man
$262.0
6
1
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Brave
$237.3
11
1
Animation/Action/Adventure
Ted
$218.8
2
2
Comedy/Fantasy
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
$216.4
12
6
PG
Adventure/Comedy/Animation
Iron Man 3
$409.0
5
5
PG-13
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Despicable Me 2
$363.1
10
5
PG
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Man of Steel
$291.0
5
1
Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Monsters University
$267.0
15
2
Animation/Adventure/Comedy
Fast & Furious 6
$238.7
9
9
Oz The Great and Powerful
$234.9
8
4
Adventure/Family/Fantasy
Star Trek Into Darkness
$228.8
9
4
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
World War Z
$202.4
4
1
Action/Adventure/Horror
The Croods
$187.2
10
6
The Heat
$159.3
2
2
PG-13
PG-13
PG
Adventure/Fantasy
Action/Crime/Thriller
Action/Comedy/Animation
Action/Comedy/Crime
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“Large Cast- Marketed” Films and Box Office Success