Royalty is good. Raucous schoolgirls are even better. But steer clear of Derbyshire mining towns or revisiting Brideshead.
An analysis of productions funded by the UK Film Council has revealed huge variations in what the defunct quango has seen as a return on its recent investments.
According to figures recently released to parliament by the culture minister, Ed Vaizey, the council made 33 film production awards between 1 April 2006 and 31 March 2011 that have so far received "recoupment income".
Recoupments chiefly commence when films are distributed and when they make money abroad. They are wholly reinvested in new productions.
Predictably, The King's Speech, the hugely popular Hollywood-backed film starring Colin Firth, which won three Oscars, was a success for the council, having so far returned 95% of the £1m lottery money invested. A further 5% was returned by the council directly to the film's producers for them to invest in future productions.
But it was another film featuring Firth, St Trinian's, a comedy set in an all-girls school (described as "monumentally naff" by the Guardian), that was the council's biggest recent success, returning £1,440,017 on the £1,432,000 invested.
Other successes include Man on Wire, a documentary following French wire-walker Philippe Petit's tightrope crossing between the twin towers of New York's World Trade Centre, which returned 101% of the £385,000 invested.
Nowhere Boy – Sam Taylor-Wood's John Lennon biopic, described by Rolling Stone as a "smart" film – returned 87% of the £1.2m invested.
If those films were the principal winners, there were also some notable losers, at least in box office terms.
Brideshead Revisited, a sumptuous reinterpretation of Evelyn Waugh's inter-war novel of Catholicism, love and nobility, described by the Daily Telegraph as "good-looking" but "empty", returned only 1% of the £1.4m it was handed.
Big names, it appears, do not necessarily guarantee a good return. Harry Brown, which featured Michael Caine as a retired Royal Marine who takes revenge when his only friend is beaten to death by a gang, returned only £22,300 of its £1,002,225.
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a comedy starring Simon Pegg as a writer for an upmarket US magazine, returned only £9,977 of the £1,471,145 lottery money invested.
Nor does critical acclaim correspond to financial success. Summer, a story of friendship and tragedy in a Derbyshire mining town, for which Robert Carlyle won best actor at the 2008 Edinburgh International Film Festival, returned £11,792 of the £467,750 production budget stumped up by the council.
"We need to remember that the UK Film Council was the one-stop shop for commercial and cultural support for the British film industry, so it was never expected to return a profit on its investment," said Martin Spence, assistant general secretary of Bectu, the media and entertainment union.
However, some films backed by the council have been neither a commercial nor a critical success.
The 2008 horror film Donkey Punch, which follows British holidaymakers in Spain as they take drugs, have sex and end up killing each other, received £457,490 from the council. Total Film explained that the film's title referred to the action of hitting "a woman on the back of the neck while shagging her from behind".
The film was panned by critics. "I can't say that this casually sadistic, misanthropic little movie persuades me that it is any contribution to, or reflection of, our national culture," said Daily Mail critic Chris Tookey.
So far, only £58,931, or 13% of the council's initial investment in Donkey Punch, has been recouped.
The core of the council's activities – spending £15m a year of lottery money on independent UK-made films – has now been transferred to the British Film Institute. A spokesman for the BFI said 99 productions were funded by the council over the past five years, 28 of which are still waiting to be released. Around £8m, 19% of the lottery money invested in the past five years, has been recouped so far.
"Not all of the ones that have been released have started to recoup," explained the BFI spokesman. "The rationale for investing in films is not necessarily on the cultural strength of them. A large part of it is for developing new talent.
"Donkey Punch was invested in under the Warp X new talent initiative – it's new talent, a new director, and one of its cast, Jaime Winstone, has gone on to do new things, and to make a name for herself."
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