Having explored over the last two days both the Box Office Sweet Spot and the directors with the highest average box-office over the course of their careers, I can’t quite let it go until I round up the directors with the lowest box-office average, too (since 1980). Again, to be included on the list, the director must have made at least four films, and I also excluded those directors who didn’t have at least four movies in the English language (just because a director like Tom Twyker or Hayao Miyazaki may not be commercially successful in America doesn’t mean he hasn’t been incredibly successful overseas).
I think the trend that you’re most likely to pick up on from this list is that you don’t have to make scads of money at the box office to be considered a successful or very well-respected director. Many of the directors on this list have Oscars, many others have been very prolific during the course of their careers, and most have made some very good films. Their movies just happen to serve a particular indie niche, but as long as they can continue to make their movies within a particular budget, many of them may still continue to make movies.
In fact, with only a couple of exceptions — Uwe Boll, Richard Loncraine — most of the people on this list have never striven for major commercial success. They seem content making small films for small audiences. What’s more impressive, especially for the prolific ones, is that many of them not only have to contend with directing a film (and writing it, as many on this list are writer/directors) but also financing them.
Nevertheless, it is somewhat disappointing that many of these directors have not found the broader success they deserve.
1. Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control) — $1.6 million average
2. Adam Rifkin (The Chase, Detroit Rock City) — $2.4 million average
3. Noah Baumbach (Kicking and Screaming, The Squid and the Whale) — $2.9 million average
4. Stanley Tucci (Big Night, The Imposters) — $3.7 million average
5. Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky, Secrets and Lies) — $3.8 million average
6. Paul Schrader (American Gigolo, Affliction) — $4.6 million average
7. Uwe Boll (Bloodrayne, Alone in the Dark) — $5.7 million average
8. David Mamet (House of Games, Heist) — $6.0 million average
9. James Ivory (The Remains of the Day, Howard’s End) — $7.4 million average
10. Stephan Elliot (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Easy Virtue) — $7.6 million average
11. Jane Campion (Bright Star, Holy Smoke) — $8.1 million average
12. George Gallo (Middle Men, Double Take) — $8.1 million average
13. James Gray (We Own the Night, Two Lovers) — $8.4 million average
14. John Dahl (Unforgettable, Rounders) — $8.6 million average
15. Albert Brooks (Mother, The Muse) — $8.8 million average
16. Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind, Rewind) — $9.0 million average
17. Christopher Guest (A Mighty Wind, Best in Show)— $9.1 million average
18. Gillian Armstrong (Little Women, Oscar and Lucinda) — $9.7 million average
19. Rod Lurie (The Contender, Resurrecting the Champ) — $9.9 million average
20. Darren Aronovsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) — $10.8 million average
21. Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise) — $12.1 million average
22. Martha Coolidge (Real Genius, Valley Girl) — $12.3 million average
23. Mike Binder (Reign Over Me, The Upside of Anger) — $12.4 million average
24. Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona ) — $12.6 million average
25. Richard Loncraine (Firewall, Wimbledon) — $13.1 million average
26. Robert Altman (Nashville, Gosford Park) — $13.9 million million average