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The Box Office Sweet Spot -- Your Favorite Directors Aren't Very Popular

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | July 12, 2010 |

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | July 12, 2010 |

As I was once again scouring box-office figures yesterday, specifically the average overall box-office gross for particular directors, I picked up on a quirky little trend. It’s not a life-shattering trend or anything, but a neat observation, if you will. And it is this: The Box-Office Sweet Spot might just be $20 - $25 million.

In other words, these directors are “pop-niche.” They’re not obscure, but they’re not huge money-makers, either. They make films that appeal to a certain limited audience, and that limited audience tends to be readers like the ones here on Pajiba. In many cases, the directors themselves are more famous than their movies, and while many (most/all) have received critical acclaim, their box-office ceiling is probably around $20 - $25 million, with a few outliers that put that average in that sweet spot.

Now, of course, Whedon obviously won’t be on this list very long — The Avengers will rocket him off, although I suspect he’ll be replaced by Edgar Wright, whose overall average box-office right now is $18 million. My guess is that Scott Pilgrim will make around $40 million and put Wright in the sweet spot. Spike Lee usually makes enough low-earners to average out his occasional hit, so he’s likely to remain in the sweet spot, as well. As for the other eight: My guess is that they’ll exist in this sweet spot for most, if not all, of their careers. I kind of appreciate that, if only because I’d consider seven or eight of these directors to be among my very favorites, and their films do well enough so that they can continue to make (low-budget) movies for years to come, but not so well that they’ll likely be co-opted by mainstream America.

Here are the ten pop-niche directors whose average overall box-office gross rests in that $20 - $25 million Box Office Sweet Spot.

Wes Anderson — $21 million average gross

Paul Thomas Anderson — $21 million average gross

Kevin Smith — $22 million average gross

Joel and Ethan Coen — $25 million average gross

Sofia Coppola — $21 million average gross

Terry Gilliam — $24 million average gross

Mike Judge — $21 million average gross

Spike Lee — $20 million average gross

David O. Russell — $22 million average gross

Joss Whedon — $25 million average gross

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.