Do you want to make a movie that grosses one billion dollars world wide?
As of July 2013, there have been 16 films that have grossed $1,000,000,000.00 worldwide. And for those movies that have surpassed the one billion dollar mountaintop, there are indicators that tie all of them together in a close-knit thread of common denominators. The common factors of these successful box office movies give some clues of what ingredients to throw into the billion dollar recipe.
1. Pitch your movie to Disney or Warner Bros. When it comes to movies that have grossed one billion dollars world wide, Disney is king. With six films, Disney’s Buena Vista Studios have produced more films that have grossed one billion dollars than any other studio. Warner Brothers comes in at a close second with four one billion dollar grossing films. Out of the 16 movies that have made history with the one billion dollar peak, Disney’s Buena Vista Studios or Warner Brothers have a combined total of 10 of those films. Paramount and Fox are tied at third with two films a piece. Sony and New Line (New Line has now merged with Warner Brothers) are in fourth place with at least one motion picture that has grossed one billion dollars. This is a feat that Universal and Lionsgate have yet to accomplish.
2. Have a big budget. Another factor to consider is the size of the budget. In this case, it appears the bigger the better. Of sixteen films, there were only four that have had a budget under $200,000,000.00 and still was able to gross over one billion dollars world wide. With the exception of those four flims, twelve of the billion dollar grossers had budgets of two hundred million dollars or more.
3. Make a sequal or a trilogy. Fourteen of the sixteen movies that have grossed one billion dollars are considered sequals with five of those films the third installment of a trilogy. Only Avatar and Titanic are the only billion dollar grossers that aren’t sequals.
4. Make a science fiction and fantasy film. If you consider Skyfall science fiction, (and because of those high tech gadgets, many do consider James Bond science fiction), then Titanic is the only movie that has grossed one billion dollars that is not considered part of the science fiction/fantasy film genre.
5. Make a movie about a super hero. Whether its about someone with some unique power or a super hero altogether, movies that gross one billion dollars are attracted to these super powered characters. Captain Jack Sparrow can talk to dead pirates, Jake Sully can become part of the Navi, Harry Potter and Gandolph both have magical powers, James Bond has the ability to escape any situation, Yoda has Jedi abilities, and we all know what super heroes can do. The fact is, every movie except Titanic has a character with some type of super powers.
6. Have an Oscar winner in the movie. In every movie that has grossed one billion dollars, it has included at least one academy award winner, whether that be an actor, director, musical composer, or production designer.
7. Make a film from a book. Most of the movies that have grossed one billion dollars were adaptions from either a book or comic book.
8. Film Internationally and in exotic locations. There are only a handful of the one billon dollar grossing movies that have been filmed entirely inside of its target audience’s country of origin. Most movies that have grossed one billion dollars have been filmed internationally in exotic locations.
9. Great Special effects. Wonderful special effects that wow and awe audiences are always included in films the gross one billion dollars world wide.
10. Have a great script. If a movie has a poorly written script, the movie fails. Most everyone agrees that there is no bad one billion dollar grossing movie. Every movie that has made one billion dollars world wide has had a great script with a great story.
These indicators are definitely not part of some secret formula. But on the other hand, it might not hurt to consider these common elements if you want to produce a film that grosses one billion dollars.