Why They Keep Making Those Awful "Saw" Movies

by Zubin Jelveh | October 13, 2009

Well, OK, so I only saw the first one in the series. (And no pun intended, seriously.) But the violence-porn level was high enough for me -- and the production values looked cheap enough --  that I didn't need to see the rest.

So I was surprised to see an ad last night for Saw VI, due out later this month. The first Saw opened in 2004, meaning there's been a new installment every year since. That seems like a remarkable pace for a movie franchise.

But it turns out (thanks to some data from the-numbers.com) that there's not much Saw-fatigue out there: The series is by far the most successful one ever. The average profit margin for the top 45 grossing franchises of all time (where Saw is #44) is 605%. Saw's average margin is three times higher at 1,804%. (The next closest are Home Alone (1,365%), Jaws (1,341%), Star Wars (1,055%), and Lord of the Rings (986%).)

Why do film-goers love Jigsaw? I have no idea. But one factor might be the pace at which a new film is released. This chart plots profit margins versus the number of films per year for a franchise (so the highest value for this latter category here is 1, meaning one film released per year):

The relationship isn't perfect, but there seems to be something to keeping the time between releases short.

But even in the case of Saw, there is some hope for haters. This chart shows the profit margin for each successive film in the series:

With any hope, Saw VI will only have triple-digit margins this time.

P.S. In case you're wondering about the margins for franchises that are not in the top 45 -- I didn't pull the data as systematically, but a sampling of these films revealed margins that were primarly below the 605% mean above.

Also, the second set of Star Wars films really brought down that franchise's average. The average margin for the first three was 2,864%, but the second three managed only a quarter of that number.

P.P.S. The figures above are not inflation-adjusted. The franchises that began in the 1970's and early 1980's see their profit margins increase after making that adjustment, but are still below Saw's. The main reason for this is that each series eventually had a clunker, which, so far, Saw has been able to avoid.

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