Documentary Market Analysis

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Documentary Market Analysis

Key Takeaways

  • Globally, there were 12,069 and 10,349 feature-length documentaries produced in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
  • In the United States, there are 137-155 accredited film or media investors.
  • The average global budget for a feature-length documentary film in 2021 was $500,000.


The feature-length documentary industry is expected to see growth in 2021 to 11,266 productions up from 10,349 in 2020 with approximately 16% looking for private investors. Details of our findings have been provided in the custom Google spreadsheet as well as below.

Global Documentary Film Statistics Overview

  • In 2020, a report was released that found 16% of feature-length documentary funding came from private investment, up from 12% in 2018. This information was used as a proxy to determine the estimated number of documentaries in 2020 and forecast for 2021 funded by private investment (16% of total documentaries).
  • According to IMDB, in 2019 and 2020 the number of feature-length documentaries produced globally was 12,069 and 10,349, respectively.
  • While a precompiled forecast of documentaries produced in 2021 was not available, we were able to determine the average number released per month to date and calculate an estimate assuming the average remains constant for the remainder of the year. As of July 6, 2021, there have been 5,632 documentaries produced or an average of 939 documentaries produced globally per month and an estimate of 11,266 by year-end.
  • After scouring investor profiles, directories, and industry databases, we found that there are 137 accredited film investors in the United States according to ProductionHUB and 155 accredited venture capital media investors in the United States according to Monteizing Media.
  • According to Sundance, the 2021 film festival included 3,500 feature length documentary films with a conservative average budget of $500,000 and an actual budget range from $100,000 to $10 million.

Additional Findings

  • In 2020, 20% of non-fiction filmmakers claimed to make a profit from their films.
  • The top 5 revenue streams for documentary film in the United States are subscription streaming video on demand, DVD education distribution, streaming educational distribution, public TV, and DVD sales.
  • According to Sundance, the success rate of documentaries in 2021 was 1.8% globally and 2.8% in the United States.

Research Strategy

For this research on feature-length documentary statistics, we leveraged the most reputable sources of information that were available in the public domain, including IMDB, Documentry.Org, Sundance, and more. After an exhaustive search of industry reports, market reports, statistical databases, and documentary investor such as the Sundance Institute, we were unable to find any publicly available information related to the number of current films looking for investment or any available proxy that could be used to calculate an estimate. This is most likely due to the fact that funding is acquired through several avenues ranging from self-investment to public and private investments and there is not currently a comprehensive database available that tracks these metrics.

In order to determine the year over year average deal of feature-length documentaries, we scoured industry reports, statistical databases, media reports, film databases, and festival annual reports. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any precompiled statistics or metrics for the industry as a whole. This is due to the fact that many deals are private and the amounts are not disclosed. Due to these factors, we calculated the average deal amount by using the annual winner's list from the Sundance festival and determining the average disclosed deal to provide a public industry benchmark. The prices of deals from the 2021 festival are still undisclosed with the exception of the record-breaking sale of CODA for $25 million which can not be used as an accurate benchmark.


  • Private Investment:
  • Feature-Length Documentaries:
    • 2021 Forecast: 5,632+(939*6)=11,266

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