2018 The Measured Circle’s most profitable movies: looking back

2018 The Measured Circle’s most profitable movies: looking back

For years, The Measured Circle has tracked not only box office, but profitability.

We do it at IMDb…this year’s is here:

https://www.imdb.com/list/ls022217945/

I like to take a look at it in the beginning of the following year, even though it will change quite a bit over the next couple of months. Some very big movies open very late in the year, and then there is the phenomenon of the “Oscar Bump”. This tends to benefit “art house” movies more than blockbusters, and that may be through getting a wide release after having a limited release. Still, that can make a difference of tens of millions of dollars.

I’m going to first reproduce the introduction at IMDb, then the values, and finally, I’ll give you some of my thoughts on it.


While tracking a movie’s box office is fascinating, The Measured Circle is also interested in how profitable a movie is.

This list of movies making a domestic gross (“dogro”) of at least $40 million in the USA in 2018 ranks them in order, based on their dogro against their rumored production budgets. Certainly there are other costs (including the not inconsiderable marketing budget) and other income (including foreign box office and merchandising), but this can give us an interesting picture.

Expect studios to look at these types of results, and sometimes greenlight projects based on them (although it’s hard to resist spending a $100 million on a possible blockbuster).

Note that recent releases will typically appear lower on this list than their eventual results. If they were in the top ten the weekend before the list is updated, they will normally be marked with “and counting”.

Movies where the rumored production budget is not available on IMDb (or elsewhere…we prefer using BoxOfficeMojo, which, like IMDb, is owned by Amazon, but which have dogroed at least $40m in 2017 in the USA appear at the bottom of the list. They may be more profitable than many of the movies above them, but we can’t do the math on them.

As a new feature (introduced in 2013), we’ve decided to label movies, to make this clearer. A traditional measure of success is the dogro being twice the production budget. Using that as a starting point…

Dogro 2X production budget = “Money”
Dogro 3X production budget = “Golden”
Dogro 30X production budget = “Platinum” (God’s Not Dead prompted the creation of this new award)

Dogro less than 50% of production budget= “Underperformer”

Starting in July 2017, we added another Measured Circle Award: Road Winner. These movies have at least 2/3rds of their box office from “foreign”, per BoxOfficeMojo. While we specifically focus on US box office, that can help explain why, for example, a sequel might be made to a movie which was an Underperformer. This number is also particularly unstable in the early part of a movie’s release, since movies don’t open in all markets simultaneously. For that reason, not every movie that qualifies may show the award, and it’s possible we’ll award a movie and then the percentages will change.


Title DoGro ProdBud Profit % Intl Award Road Winner
Black Panther 700.1 200 500.1 350% 646.9 Golden
Incredibles 2 608.6 200 408.6 304% 634.1 Golden
Avengers: Infinity War 678.8 300 378.8 226% 1370 Money Yes
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom 417.7 170 247.7 246% 891.8 Money Yes
Deadpool 2 318.5 110 208.5 290% 419.1 Money
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch 269.6 75 194.6 359% 235.1 Golden
A Quiet Place 188 17 171 1106% 152.9 Triple Golden
A Star Is Born 203.6 36 167.6 566% 200 Golden
Halloween 159.3 10 149.3 1593% 94.3 Quintuple Golden
Bohemian Rhapsody 198.5 52 146.5 382% 553.4 Golden Yes
Crazy Rich Asians 174.5 30 144.5 582% 64 Golden
Aquaman 287.9 160 127.9 180% 732.4 Yes
Venom 213.4 100 113.4 213% 642.2 Money Yes
The Nun 117.5 22 95.5 534% 248.1 Golden Yes
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation 167.5 80 87.5 209% 359.8 Money Yes
I Can Only Imagine 83.5 7 76.5 1193% 0 Triple Golden
Ocean’s 8 140.2 70 70.2 200% 157.5 Money
Peter Rabbit 115.3 50 65.3 231% 236 Money Yes
Creed II 114.9 50 64.9 230% 51.7 Money
Book Club 68.6 10 58.6 686% 0 Double Golden
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 147.8 90 57.8 164% 154.6
The First Purge 69.5 13 56.5 535% 67.5 Golden
Ant-Man and the Wasp 216.6 162 54.6 134% 406
Night School 77.3 29 48.3 267% 25.6 Money
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again 120.6 75 45.6 161% 274.1 Yes
Fifty Shades Freed 100.4 55 45.4 183% 271.5 Yes
Mission: Impossible – Fallout 220.2 178 42.2 124% 571 Yes
Breaking In 46.8 6 40.8 780% 4.6 Double Golden
The Mule 90.6 50 40.6 181% 3.6
The Equalizer 2 102.1 62 40.1 165% 88.3
Blockers 60.3 21 39.3 287% 33.7 Money
The House With a Clock in Its Wall 68.5 30 38.5 228% 62.9 Money
Overboard 50.3 12 38.3 419% 40.9 Golden
Truth or Dare 41.3 3.5 37.8 1180% 53.9 Triple Golden
Hereditary 44.1 10 34.1 441% 35.3 Golden
A Simple Favor 53.5 20 33.5 268% 43.5 Money
Tag 55 28 27 196% 23.4
Disney’s Christopher Robin 99.2 72.5 26.7 137% 98.4
Uncle Drew 42.5 18 24.5 236% 2.4 Money
Love, Simon 40.8 17 23.8 240% 25.5 Money
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony 43.5 20 23.5 218% 2.9 Money
Life of the Party 53.1 30 23.1 177% 12.8
Mary Poppins Returns 150.7 130 20.7 116% 137.2
Instant Family 66.7 48 18.7 139% 13.3
BlacKkKlansman 48.5 30 18.5 162% 40.9
I Feel Pretty 48.8 32 16.8 153% 45.7
Ralph Breaks the Internet 190.4 175 15.4 109% 243.7
The Meg 145.4 130 15.4 112% 384.8 Yes
Sicario: Day of the Soldado 50.1 35 15.1 143% 25.8
Den of Thieves 44.9 30 14.9 150% 35.6
Game Night 69.2 55 14.2 126% 69.2
Insidious: The Last Key 67.7 55 12.7 123% 100.1
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween 46.7 35 11.7 133% 46.5
12 Strong 45.8 35 10.8 131% 21.6
Smallfoot 83.2 80 3.2 104% 130.9
Paddington 2 40.9 40 0.9 102% 186.4 Yes
A Wrinkle in Time 100.5 100 0.5 101% 100.5
Widows 42.2 42 0.2 100% 32.9
Maze Runner: The Death Cure 58 62 -4 94% 230.2 Yes
First Man 44.9 59 -14.1 76% 55.6
Sherlock Gnomes 43.2 59 -15.8 73% 47.1
Rampage 101 120 -19 84% 327 Yes
Red Sparrow 46.9 69 -22.1 68% 104.7 Yes
Bumblebee 108.3 135 -26.7 80% 258.1 Yes
Tomb Raider 58.3 94 -35.7 62% 216.4 Yes
The Predator 51 88 -37 58% 109.5 Yes
Ready Player One 137.7 175 -37.3 79% 445.2 Yes
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald 158.2 200 -41.8 79% 486.4 Yes
Skyscraper 68.4 125 -56.6 55% 236.5 Yes
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms 54.8 120 -65.2 46% 118.6 Yes
Solo: A Star Wars Story 213.8 300 -86.2 71% 179.2
Pacific Rim Uprising 60.3 150 -89.7 40% 231.1 Underperformer Yes

The first thing I’ll point out is that, in this group, close to 2/3rds of the money comes from international (61% of it…about a third are Road Winners, but those that are may make significantly more money abroad). That explains why some movies which don’t do that well domestically get sequels. While I haven’t specifically analyzed this, movies with a lot of dialogue don’t tend to do as well internationally as movies with action and visuals, which makes sense (although it’s possible that translation will get better in the future). Comedies tend to suffer from that: a comedy may not do as well in countries outside of its originating one…not just based on language. A joke which works in the USA may not work in the UK, and vice versa.

Within the use, the top ones in terms of gross profit are as you might expect: big budget and geek-friendly.

However, let’s look at this again, but this time, sorting by return on investment…percentages:

Title DoGro ProdBud Profit % Intl Award Road Winner
Halloween 159.3 10 149.3 1593% 94.3 Quintuple Golden
I Can Only Imagine 83.5 7 76.5 1193% 0 Triple Golden
Truth or Dare 41.3 3.5 37.8 1180% 53.9 Triple Golden
A Quiet Place 188 17 171 1106% 152.9 Triple Golden
Breaking In 46.8 6 40.8 780% 4.6 Double Golden
Book Club 68.6 10 58.6 686% 0 Double Golden
Crazy Rich Asians 174.5 30 144.5 582% 64 Golden
A Star Is Born 203.6 36 167.6 566% 200 Golden
The First Purge 69.5 13 56.5 535% 67.5 Golden
The Nun 117.5 22 95.5 534% 248.1 Golden Yes
Hereditary 44.1 10 34.1 441% 35.3 Golden
Overboard 50.3 12 38.3 419% 40.9 Golden
Bohemian Rhapsody 198.5 52 146.5 382% 553.4 Golden Yes
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch 269.6 75 194.6 359% 235.1 Golden
Black Panther 700.1 200 500.1 350% 646.9 Golden
Incredibles 2 608.6 200 408.6 304% 634.1 Golden
Deadpool 2 318.5 110 208.5 290% 419.1 Money
Blockers 60.3 21 39.3 287% 33.7 Money
A Simple Favor 53.5 20 33.5 268% 43.5 Money
Night School 77.3 29 48.3 267% 25.6 Money
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom 417.7 170 247.7 246% 891.8 Money Yes
Love, Simon 40.8 17 23.8 240% 25.5 Money
Uncle Drew 42.5 18 24.5 236% 2.4 Money
Peter Rabbit 115.3 50 65.3 231% 236 Money Yes
Creed II 114.9 50 64.9 230% 51.7 Money
The House With a Clock in Its Wall 68.5 30 38.5 228% 62.9 Money
Avengers: Infinity War 678.8 300 378.8 226% 1370 Money Yes
Tyler Perry’s Acrimony 43.5 20 23.5 218% 2.9 Money
Venom 213.4 100 113.4 213% 642.2 Money Yes
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation 167.5 80 87.5 209% 359.8 Money Yes
Ocean’s 8 140.2 70 70.2 200% 157.5 Money
Tag 55 28 27 196% 23.4
Fifty Shades Freed 100.4 55 45.4 183% 271.5 Yes
The Mule 90.6 50 40.6 181% 3.6
Aquaman 287.9 160 127.9 180% 732.4 Yes
Life of the Party 53.1 30 23.1 177% 12.8
The Equalizer 2 102.1 62 40.1 165% 88.3
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 147.8 90 57.8 164% 154.6
BlacKkKlansman 48.5 30 18.5 162% 40.9
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again 120.6 75 45.6 161% 274.1 Yes
I Feel Pretty 48.8 32 16.8 153% 45.7
Den of Thieves 44.9 30 14.9 150% 35.6
Sicario: Day of the Soldado 50.1 35 15.1 143% 25.8
Instant Family 66.7 48 18.7 139% 13.3
Disney’s Christopher Robin 99.2 72.5 26.7 137% 98.4
Ant-Man and the Wasp 216.6 162 54.6 134% 406
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween 46.7 35 11.7 133% 46.5
12 Strong 45.8 35 10.8 131% 21.6
Game Night 69.2 55 14.2 126% 69.2
Mission: Impossible – Fallout 220.2 178 42.2 124% 571 Yes
Insidious: The Last Key 67.7 55 12.7 123% 100.1
Mary Poppins Returns 150.7 130 20.7 116% 137.2
The Meg 145.4 130 15.4 112% 384.8 Yes
Ralph Breaks the Internet 190.4 175 15.4 109% 243.7
Smallfoot 83.2 80 3.2 104% 130.9
Paddington 2 40.9 40 0.9 102% 186.4 Yes
A Wrinkle in Time 100.5 100 0.5 101% 100.5
Widows 42.2 42 0.2 100% 32.9
Maze Runner: The Death Cure 58 62 -4 94% 230.2 Yes
Rampage 101 120 -19 84% 327 Yes
Bumblebee 108.3 135 -26.7 80% 258.1 Yes
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald 158.2 200 -41.8 79% 486.4 Yes
Ready Player One 137.7 175 -37.3 79% 445.2 Yes
First Man 44.9 59 -14.1 76% 55.6
Sherlock Gnomes 43.2 59 -15.8 73% 47.1
Solo: A Star Wars Story 213.8 300 -86.2 71% 179.2
Red Sparrow 46.9 69 -22.1 68% 104.7 Yes
Tomb Raider 58.3 94 -35.7 62% 216.4 Yes
The Predator 51 88 -37 58% 109.5 Yes
Skyscraper 68.4 125 -56.6 55% 236.5 Yes
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms 54.8 120 -65.2 46% 118.6 Yes
Pacific Rim Uprising 60.3 150 -89.7 40% 231.1 Underperformer Yes

Doing that, the top ones tend to be lower budget (under $50m, certainly), and with horror movies (and faith-based, often) being the best investments. You need to get down to #15 before a movie which cost $100m to make gets our Golden award (profit three times production budget). Black Panther and Incredibles 2 (both Disney) are in that rarefied stratum: movies which cost over $100 to make (they both have reported estimated production budgets of $200m) but still got our Golden award.

Pacific Rim Uprising is an Underperformer (it’s too soon to make that call on Nutcracker), but it’s also a Road Winner, with hundreds of millions of dollars and close to 80% of the box office coming outside of dogro…so don’t be surprised if there is a third PacRim.

With so many other sources of income (streaming services, for one major one), movie studios seem to be figuring out how to keep from having big losers much more reliably.

See you in the movies!

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

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