How Hollywood's Original and Not-So-Original Films Fare At The Box Office

Anita Elberse & Nick Krasney
October 2013

Is Hollywood increasingly shying away from betting on truly original content? Where is Hollywood finding inspiration for its new films, and what is catching on with audiences? Are films about superheroes, wizards, and vampires really capturing an ever larger share of the box office?

To get an answer to these and other questions, we collected data on US box-office grosses for all titles released theatrically from 2003 through 2013's Labor Day weekend, and asked a group of (anonymous) coders to classify whether each film is based on an original idea or whether the movie was based on an existing property such as a prior movie, a book, comic book or video game ("non-original").

The interactive graphic below captures our results. Clicking on each of the orange ("original") and blue ("non-original") bars on the left reveals information on the corresponding set of movies on the right side; clicking in that map gives more information on each of those movies.

Note from the authors: Classifying films in this fashion is not as a straightforward a task as you might imagine (Should The Avengers be categorized as a sequel in the Iron Man franchise or is it a new series because it features multiple characters? And is Sex and the City based on the book or the television series?), but on the whole, we think we captured the general patterns. We welcome suggested corrections via moviedata@anitaelberse.com.