Most actors’ careers only last one year according to new study

There's a huge disparity between movie stars and struggling thespians

Emma Stone

Despite all the glitz and glamour of show business, acting is, by and large, not a profitable career choice, according to a new study.


Analysis of more than two million actors has found that the majority of acting careers only last for one year, and that there’s a huge disparity between movie stars and struggling thespians in an industry where the rich get richer.

“One-hit wonders, i.e., actors whose career spans only a single year, are the norm rather than the exception,” reads the study by Queen Mary University of London published in the journal Nature Communications.

The study found that careers of around 69% of male actors and 68% of female actors begin and end in the same year, findings which corroborate the 2014 statistic revealing that only 2% of actors are able to make a living out of acting.

In show business, the study also found, the rich get richer. Essentially, the more acting credits a star has, the more work they are likely to get, meaning there’s a huge disparity between successful and unsuccessful actors.

“The total productivity of an actor’s career is found to be power-law distributed,” says the study, “with most actors having very few jobs, while a few of them have more than a hundred.”


Joan Rivers’ reckoning that “it’s feast or famine in showbiz” appears to be right on the money.