February 27, 2008, 1:06 pm
The Movie Money Landscape
By Henry Woodbury
The New York Times has a very nice interactive chart on The Ebb and Flow of Movies: Box Office Receipts 1986 – 2007, partially captured below:
This visual explanation does many some things well. It uses both sides of the horizontal axis to double the amount of data displayed in a vertical slice of time. It avoids unnecessary gridlines and tick marks. It uses color to clarify the area plot for “total domestic gross” allowing easier comparison between movies with short and long runs (compare Shrek to Hannibal, for example). A “Find Movie” feature helps locate any release in the time frame and highlight it among its contemporaries.
All that is missing is a single view of the entire chart. Even a static thumbnail image would help illustrate seasonal and macro trends. Here’s a sample view of 1986 – 1990.
Update: Thanks to commenter “tomp” I’ve made a few edits. My original “double the amount of data” statement was off base. By using both sides of the horizontal axis, the chart may increase the number of peaks, but since the data is stacked (not overlapping as I originally assumed), this technique does not increase data density. The macro view would, in fact, be much easier to analyze if all the data was stacked in the same direction (upwards). I also replaced a reference to The Animal with Hannibal so that my point about total domestic gross would actually make sense.
Hi, I’m unclear as to how using both sides of the axis “doubles the amount of data it can show”. It seems to me that using both sides of the axis is a purely aesthetic decision and even makes comparisons over time between totals harder to appreciate eg. at what point is the total revenue of the “mummy returns” peak the same as than that at the start of the “shrek” curve which immediately follows it ? Nevertheless its an interesting and compelling graphics your thumb.
Posted by tomp on February 27, 2008 at 1:37 pm
… your thumbnail image is a nice addition is what I meant to say :)
Posted by tomp on February 27, 2008 at 1:38 pm
tomp, you are right to cast doubt on my “doubles” statement. I was assuming each movie’s “hill” of data was based on a zero point and that the data sets overlapped each other, but rereading the key, the data sets actually appear to be stacked.
A possible advantage in using both sides of the axis would be that it doubles the number of visual “peaks” that invite comparison, but the more I think about this, the less I like it. First, the double peak approach makes comparing seasonal and yearly totals much more difficult. It is also easy to overlook interesting data sets that snake through the middle of the chart. Check out the IMAX movie Mysteries of Egypt or the 1997 release Elizabeth, for example.
Posted by Henry Woodbury on February 27, 2008 at 2:02 pm
I like this visual, but I’d love to see some additional data on the movie’s critical success – perhaps a star rating or number of awards in the info box that pops up when you click on the movie.
Posted by Kirsten Robinson on March 5, 2008 at 10:41 am