Here are some talking points for this weekend’s holiday parties. Jason Scoggins, a partner at the literary management and production company Protocol, has compiled what he readily admits is a “terribly unscientific” but which I find very interesting compilation of the 2009 feature film spec script market based on information culled from public and non-public sources. The numbers do not include pitch sales or the film rights to underlying material. He found that:
• 436 spec scripts came out in 2009, of which 72 sold (17%).
• 373 specs went out wide in 2009, of which 19 sold (5%). Of those 19, only 3 sold after April 30th, out of 178 attempts during the period (1.7%).
• As for spec sals by genre, comedies led with 32% of sales, thrillers 29%, action adventures 21%, while dramas and sci-fi/fantasies tied with 10%.
• Universal and Warner Bros bought the most specs among the major buyers (6 each). But Warner Bros bought only 1 spec script in the second half of the year. Paramount & Sony tied with 5 each not counting ony’s Screen Gems which bought another 3. DreamWorks had 4. 20th Century Fox had 3, but adding all its three banners, Fox bought 6 specs. Lionsgate purchased 3. New Line didn’t buy any specs in 2009.
• Relativity and Intrepid bought the most specs among the other buyers (3 each).
• In the spec market scrum among agencies, CAA made 14 spec script sales out of 34 attempts, or 41%), followed by UTA’s 10 sales out of 30 attempts, or 33%, and ICM’s 10 sales out of 33 attempts, or 30%. WME didn’t form until May 2009, but when you take the numbers for all three of its component companies — Endeavor, William Morris, and WME — the combined agency would have been a dominant #1 in total scripts sold, with 18 sales out of 47 attempts, or 38%)
• Benderspink among management companies had the most spec sales (5 sales out of 11 attempts, or 45%). Kaplan/Perrone had 4 sales out of 12 attempts, or 33%. Principato-Young made 3 sales out of 8 attempts, or 38%, while Circle Of Confusion did 3 sales out of 15 attempts, or 20%.
Scoggins also found several interesting patterns:
1. The wide spec basically died on April 30, 2009. For the first four months of 2009, 8.2% of the specs that went wide to the town ended up selling (16 out of 195). Not a great percentage, but probably to be expected, all things considered. From May through the end of the year, however, sales of wide specs fell off a cliff: 3 out of 178 wide specs sold during that period, or 1.7%.
2. Somewhat surprisingly, specs sold consistently throughout the year on a percentage basis. The Spring selling season is roughly twice as long as the Fall season: this year, there were 21 weeks in the Spring (from the end of Sundance to theweek before Independence Day) versus 10 weeks in the Fall (from the week after Labor Day to the week before Thanksgiving). So all things being equal, there should have been twice as many scripts and sales in the first half of the year versus the second. But not everything was equal in the latter part of 2009: there was significant studio head turnover, plus three studios put a moratorium on development spending. Spring sales were front-loaded into the first four months of the period (41 out of the 50 sales for the first half of the year), yet roughly the same percentage of scripts on the market sold in the first half of the year (16.7%) as the second (16.2%).