Detailed Findings & Methodology:
Hollywood changes rapidly, and fame ebbs and flows. Today’s red carpet royalty may be tomorrow’s reality show hopeful, and stars with a long history of box office successes may be on the precipice of a string of major flops. Shia LaBeouf, for example, has one of the highest average box office grosses of any actor due to his starring role in the first three Transformers movies. Recent negative PR, however, has likely reduced the actor’s bankability.
To ensure an actor’s average box office gross indicates current bankability, only actors who have starred in at least two films that grossed $100 million or more since 2010, or at least one film that grossed $100 million or more since 2013 were included.
A film’s top talent may not have much effect on box office at all. According to a 1999 study of approximately 200 films released between 1991 and 1993, considering all factors that influence a film’s success, stars had no discernable impact on box office. Some of the highest-grossing films of the past several years — “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Avatar,” “Rogue One” and “Wonder Woman” — starred newer actors who were relatively unknown to American audiences at the time of their films’ premieres.
Despite their box office success, many of the films starring the most bankable actors lose money more often than not. For six of the 25 most bankable actors, the average budgets of the films they’ve starred in is larger than their average box office. Of the 25 most bankable actors, the actors with the highest rate of return are Bradley Cooper and Seth Rogen, and the actors with the lowest returns are Chris Hemsworth and Johnny Depp.
There are few industries in the U.S. with more gender inequality than the film industry. The median earnings for women in arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media is roughly 83% of the median earnings for men in the industry, and women are far less likely to be the lead in a major Hollywood blockbuster. The gender inequality in Hollywood is also apparent in the list of the 25 most bankable actors. Of the 25 actors with the highest average box office per film, just two are women.
To determine the 25 most bankable actors, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed the average box office per film of 7,079 actors with data from the Internet Movie Database. Only an actor’s lead film credits were counted toward his or her average box office. Actors with fewer than five unique lead credits — excluding sequels — were not considered. Actors were also excluded from consideration if 25% or more of their lead acting credits were in sequels to their own movies. Finally, actors who had not starred in at least two movies that had grossed at least $100 million since 2010 or one movie grossing at least $100 million since 2013 were excluded. Data for animated films were excluded. Budget data came from film data service The Numbers.