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I'm looking for a data set that contains total screen time and first on-screen appearance (mm:ss) by actors and actresses in Hollywood films. I'm most interested in these data points for actors and actresses in Oscar-nominated roles, but I'd be able to parse those records out of a larger data set if one is available.

I've seen several articles that report records for the shortest Oscar-winning or Oscar-nominated performance, but I can't find any that cite where the data comes from. Examples:

  • Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for Silence of the Lambs, but only appeared on-screen for 16 minutes.
  • Beatrice Straight won an Oscar for her role in Network. She only appeared on-screen for 5 minutes and 40 seconds.
  • Judy Dench won for Shakespeare in Love but only appeared on-screen for about 8 minutes.

I don't know if these are official records or not, since I can't find specific references to data. If official records are kept, then I'd like to know if the data is available.


In my search, I did find a recent article, The Gender Gap in Screen Time, that shows that actresses get significantly less screen-time than their male counterparts in Hollywood films. That article cites the Cinemetrics database, but I don't think historical data for performers screen times are kept there. I think the author of the NYT article may have used the tools available at that site to compile times for Oscar nominees for the past two years only. Those are the only two years that the author gives examples from in the article, and I cannot find the data on the cited web page.

  • I remember seeing a talk on a project a few years ago, where they had software so that someone could classify which actors were in which scenes of a TV show. I want to say it was at an ASIS&T meeting about 3-5 years ago. So I know there's academic groups generating similar data, but there may also be less formal communities doing the same thing. – Joe Jun 2 '14 at 15:11
  • william shatner hands down. He's ranked 30th for acting credits but I don't believe any of the 29 have had nearly as much screen time. – user13189 Aug 1 '16 at 5:30
  • -1 sorry the original question is asking for a set of data, instead of a individual. – Marcus D Aug 1 '16 at 11:27
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review – albert Aug 1 '16 at 15:09
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I don't have an answer but your request reminds me of a Slate.com article about characters shared scenes in Friends. The journalist explained his method:

To determine which characters shared scenes, I downloaded transcripts of all 236 episodes from this remarkably comprehensive fan site. For the purposes of this inquiry, I treated these transcripts as authoritative, as watching all 10 seasons was impractical. Due to inconsistencies in the transcripts, which do not always list all of the characters present in a given scene, I used the following methodology: If a character spoke a line in a scene, I marked him or her as present. Admittedly, this is an imperfect approach, as even with this gregarious group, there were scenes in which a character was present but did not have a line. However, in most instances, all parties present in a scene end up uttering a line, so I’m confident my analysis is sound, even if it missed a moping Ross here or a pouting Rachel there.

Interestingly, the author mentions the limitations of his method.

This method won't help you to measure exactly how much time an actor appear on-screen. But it may be a good basis to calculate how much time an actor is present in a scene, by measuring the time between his first and last sentence in a scene, then repeating it for every scene to get the total time in the movie. It may be a good approximation of the time an actor spent on-screen.

  • Great idea! Do you know anywhere to bulk download movie scripts? – philshem Jun 5 '14 at 11:14
  • Thank you, this gives me some good ideas about what I can try if I can't find the exact data that I'm looking for. It also occurs to me that number of lines spoken might be a better metric than time on-screen. – Bill the Lizard Jun 5 '14 at 11:42
  • @philshem : I don't know, but since it's copyrighted content I'm pretty sure it would be forbidden to post links here. – A.L Jun 5 '14 at 16:51
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The Cinemetrics database actually does have historical data from more than 14,000 movies dating from 1899 and the screen time for a variety of actors and actresses in these movies. You just need to look at this view of the database. However, for many movies, the focus is on the length of the shots, rather than the screen time for the actors.

Additional data can be found for camera shots and methods for film and for television. Perhaps the most authoritative data on films, actors, and roles is the American Film Institute's catalog. Some sites, like Rotten Tomatoes, also provides an API, but does not have actual screen time per actor/character.

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