Making Movies

Published on website: December 11, 2009
Categories: Dave Middleton , Industry , The StoryBoard Blog

There are many formats available for making a movie, starting with whether it is on film or digital video.  There are many different considerations when choosing a format, including image quality, cost, ease of use, workflow familiarity, aesthetics, archivability, and where you intend to share your story. 

But this story is not about how people are making their movies.  This is about how many people are making movies.

If you are reading this, you just might be a filmmaker, and if you are you probably know how difficult it is to get financing for a feature film.  You feel the weak economy and the credit freeze.  You are not alone.  Recently published data from Screen Digest showed the number of features produced worldwide dropped 3% in 2008, the first production decrease since 2003.  The situation is most acute in the US, where the number of movies produced dropped 21% in 2008, to the lowest total since 1993.

The decline is most likely temporary.

Internationally, features production leveled off in 2008, but on a plateau higher than any in the surrounding historic landscape:

These production levels are supported by international market fundamentals which have grown strongly over the past 5-10 years.  Many of these are likely to grow further in the future:

  • The local production infrastructures have grown larger and more capable:  more soundstages, more post-production options, and more talented people to use them.  Many countries first built this infrastructure to attract runaway Hollywood productions, then turned it to the production of more and better local movies.
  • Global box office set a new record each of the last three years.  Hollywood films are still very popular worldwide, but locally-produced films are enjoying an increasing share of the box office in many countries.
  • First run cinema screen growth continued, even in 2008, even in mature cinema markets like the US and Western Europe.  Countries like China and India – cinema markets with huge potential – are modernizing their cinema infrastructure, replacing aging rural screens with state-of-the-art multi-plex theaters.
  • DVD sales now provide a substantial part of movie distributor revenues (roughly 40%).  DVD player penetration is still growing significantly in most regions of the world.
  • Many governments recognize film production as both an economic engine and as a cultural heritage, and provide significant financial support.  Some of this support helps finance production; some further develops the production, distribution, and exhibition infrastructure.
  • Digital cinema is providing new opportunities for independent distributors to get their films shown in theaters.  For example, the UK Film Council has equipped 240 digital theaters dedicated to showing independent films.


International features production levels should stabilize or grow.  In the US, however, the number of features produced has declined each of the last three years.  Many of the US market fundamentals matured earlier than they did in the rest of the world, with the number of US-produced movies peaking in the late 1990’s:

US features production has continued to drop in 2009.  The Hollywood studios have – in aggregate – trimmed their production slate modestly.  Independent producers have been hardest hit, struggling to get financing.  Their struggles will likely continue until the economy turns around. 

And then?  US movie production has always rebounded in the past.  A few independent features will hit big at the box office, then people will want to make more.  The number of productions dropped 25% in 1992 and 1993, but was followed by seven straight years where more movies were made than in any year prior to 1993.

More people than ever have stories to tell, and they have many ways to tell them.  Pick the format that is best for your story, find your financing, and make your movie.

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