Let’s get our Mojo working

What can get our creative juices flowing and tone up our resolve to keep pounding away at those computer keyboards better than waving the possibility of dollars for our efforts before our faces. Come on, let’s get our mojo working. And by mojo I mean Box Office Mojo.

Computer keyboard with dollar signs. ©iStockphoto.com/firebrandphotography

Computer keyboard with dollar signs. ©iStockphoto.com/firebrandphotography

How is life story doing at the box office? Let’s take a look at the financial returns for the five life narrative films nominated for Academy Awards. How can we do that? We’re going to search at Box Office Mojo. (Numbers from February 2, 2014)

12 years a Slave: Solomon Northrup, a free black man living in New York, is kidnapped in 1841 and spends 12 years as a slave in Louisiana

Fox Searchlight distributor. This film had a limited release on October 18, 2013, earning $923,715. Wide release was on November 18 with earnings of $6,675. 731. Total earnings worldwide are $96,408,000 with $45,808,000 domestic (47.5%) and $50,000,000 foreign (52.5%) over 108 days in release. Production budget not listed.

Captain Phillips: Captain Richard Phillips’ cargo ship is hijacked by Somali pirates

Sony/Columbia distributor. Captain Phillips opened on October 10, 2013, earning $25,718,314 in 3,020 theaters. As of February 3, 2014, it has earned $217,060,934 worldwide, with $106,547,000 domestic (49.1%) and $110,513,934 foreign (50.9%)  in 115 days of release. Production budget was $55 million.

Dallas Buyers Club:  Ron Woodroof, when diagnosed with HIV, expands the 30 days doctors have given him to live by seeking out alternative medicines, smuggling them into Texas and distributing them to others illegally

Distributed by Focus Features. The film was released limited (9 theaters) on November 1, 2013, earning $260,865 and wide (666 theaters) on November 22, 2013, earning $2,687,157. In 94 days of release the film’s lifetime gross is $22,542,486 domestic (100%). Production budget not listed.

Philomena: Philomena Lee searches fifty years for the son she was forced as a young woman to give up for adoption

Weinstein Company distributor. The film opened limited (4 theaters) on November 22, 2013, earning $128,435 and wide (835 theaters) on November 27, 2013, earning $3,676,001. The worldwide gross is $69,475,425 with $27,342,000 (39.4%) domestic and $42,133,426 (60.6%) foreign. Production budget not listed.

The Wolf of Wall Street: Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort rises high, then plummets

Paramount distributor. The film opened in 2,537 theaters on December 25, 2013, earning $18,361,578. Total lifetime grosses are $226,377,000 with $104,077,000 domestic (46%) and $122,300,000 (54%). Production budget was $100 million.

It’s hard to tell what ballpark balance figures are, especially on the films where production budgets aren’t listed. But often more information can be found in articles like How the Producers of ‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ ‘Wold of Wall Street’ and ‘Fruitvale Station’ Got the Films Off the Ground. From this article we discover that Dallas Buyer’s Club was made for under $5 million. And despite using more than 100 locations, Wolf came in on time and on budget. The New York Times article The International Fate of ’12 years:’ Steve McQueen’s Film Is a Bos-Office test Case indicated the budget for 12 days a Slave was around $20 million.

In the end, what these numbers tell us as writers is that life story is making a profit in the hands of Hollywood in the U.S. and often even better in foreign markets globally. Maybe this is one reason hollywood elite show up at the Golden Globes in great numbers.

Come on, let’s get our mojo working today!


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