Test your box-office intelligence quotient. What was the most successful film of 1996 from a business point of view? Independence Day which grossed $785 million worldwide or Trainspotting which earned just $72 million? Remember, in the movie business, bigger is not always better.

That's right, the Scottish heroin-abuse saga, tops Daily Variety's tenth annual study of movie profitability; Fox's summer megahit ranks number four. The study attempts to treat the movies as a normal business (what a concept!) where people compare the budget spent with the cash return.

By that standard, Trainspotting was the most efficient use of studio cash. With a meager production cost of only $3.5 million, it earned a sparkling return-on-investment ratio of better than 20-to-1 for its producer, Channel Four Films.

At the bottom of the list, the horror flick Bad Moon, with a production cost of $7 million, probably wasn't a huge gamble for Morgan Creek Productions. Still, its brief theatrical run only netted $1.1 million, making it the biggest loser.

With their capacity for huge worldwide returns, several big-budget movies always are included in the top 20, while their huge costs send some to the bottom of the list. Most wind up around the middle, with generally around a 3-to-1 return. And once foreign grosses are factored in, films perceived as duds in the U.S., such as the Keanu Reeves thriller Chain Reaction, come out okay.

Based on the study, studio heads can see more star vehicles failed than succeeded, while serious dramas were far more successful than comedies. In fact, The First Wives Club was the only comedy ranked in the top 20.

Non-theatrical revenue such as video sales and promotional costs are not factored into the study. And since studio books are closed to the public, profit participation is also left out.

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