Thursday, December 17, 2015

Movie Data

Given that as I type this the new Star Wars movie coming out this week it seems like a perfect time to highlight some places to go get data about movies. So there are a pile of places to go. And kids (and most humans) love movies so why not find some data that kids will be more engaged to explore. As it turns out there are a few really great places to get real time data on movies. I'm going to focus on two.

Box Office Mojo

The first one is There is a lot of data that you can choose from and it is almost realtime. For example you can click on Daily and it will give the summary of total domestic (US) ticket sales for each day. Or at the top if you click the daily summary you will get the top movies of the day and how much they made (among other things, right down to the dollar). You can even drill down and click on the movie name to get things like how many theatres it is in. One of the other neat things is they have "Showdowns" of movies and do comparisons like this one from Interstellar, Gravity and The Martian. But by far the coolest thing is the all time chart which gives the records for a huge number of metrics.

The Numbers

The second site I like is , Here you can get some of the same stats like the box office info from any day of any year, but also stuff on DVD sales as well as how bankable a star is. And it even has a special Report Builder page where you can generate your own report with the info you want. But for me, by far, the best part is their movie budgets page where you can get the all time list of movies by production budget (over 5000 of them) or top 20 movies that were most profitable.

The Analysis

There is so much that you can do with this data that you could probably pick off any topic and find something to report on. But let me highlight a few of my favourite things to do. For example, with the daily movie data from Box Office Mojo (Fathom, Fathom Sol, Google Sheet). At the low end you could create histograms, dot plots and box plots, and compare measures of central tendency. At the higher end you can have them look for outliers or compare what happens day to day.

That daily data was a summary, you can also take the daily data from The Numbers (Fathom, Fathom Sol, Google Sheet) and my favourite thing to do after looking at the single variable analysis of the amount of money is to look at the two variable analysis of how the money compares to the number of theatres each movie was in. And then see if any of the movies might get lost in that data (like the Big Short which hardly played in any theatres but had the most tickets sold per theatre. Or that In the Heart of the Sea is doing better than expected and the Peanuts Movie is doing worse than expected
Another of my favourite things is to look at how movies did compared to what it cost to make them. There is a lot of info on this on The Numbers and one of my favourite examples is that of the Blair Witch Project. A movie that only cost $60,000 to make yet had a world wide total gross of almost $250 million. You can get the daily numbers for any movie like this and in this case see that this started out in one theatre, did well. Then expanded to about 30 theatres and did well and then finally got a much wider distribution and blew up. 

That is just a small amount of what you could do with this data. Especially if you use the full set from the Numbers (Fathom, Google Sheets)

Sample Questions

  • What I usually do with these sites is ask something more general. I introduce them and then just ask "What story does this data tell? Use graphs and calculations to tell your story."
  • Another thing I ask is to look at the all time list and use a site like to put everything in today's dollars. They can check their answers on the Box Office Mojo summary page where they show that Gone With the Wind, adjusted for inflation, would have grossed over $1.7 billion domestically (there is no worldwide data). Or even look at the story that they tell about adjusted data. The dataset on movie ticket prices alone is pretty good for analysis.
  • For the younger grades you could make bar graphs or circle graphs about their favourite movie franchise, for example, like Harry Potter (Google Sheets, Google Sheets with Graphs)

Other Movie Resources

The site often does a lot of stories on movies and there is a great podcast about the problems with the movie rating sites and how they handle data. Read and listen about it here and here. And of course there is the famous movie quotes as visualizations

Download the Data

Let me know if you used these data set or if you have suggestions of what to do with it beyond this. Or if you created a lesson based on this data, share it below.

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