Box Office Recedes: Hollyweird blames everyone but itself

Live theatre never thought movies would surpass it.  Radio never thought TV would surpass it.  Drive-in theatres never thought they would die out when “car culture” hasn’t died.  Movie studios never thought home video (VHS and DVD) would surpass theatres.  TV and movie studios never thought video games would outearn them or give a more immersive experience.  Blockbuster never thought it would go bust.  Et cetera, ad nauseum.

Movie studios never thought viewers would get tired of their awful movies.  And after a summer of overpriced failure, they’re trying to blame Rotten Tomatoes and bad reviews instead of their own poor product. A researcher has shown that bad reviews have negligible effect on box office success, but good story telling does. (The evidence showing reviews don’t affect revenues is just as predicable as movie and music piracy having no effect on their sales either.)

Data Analysis Exonerates Rotten Tomatoes for Hollywood’s Failures

Last week, the New York Times published an article about Hollywood studio executives blaming the influence of Rotten Tomatoes for its failures at the box office. This seemed silly, and it was practically an admission that the movies these execs are making suck. Well, now we have data that shows the critical consensus on movies is not killing profits.

Yves Bergquist manages the Data & Analytics Project at USC’s Entertainment Technology Center….


Bergquist’s data showed that there was only a 12 percent PMCC correlation between good or bad ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and the amount of money Hollywood raked in. When he just looked at how a film performed on its ever-important opening weekend, that number dropped to 8 percent. Narrowing the field further to the summer season (May through Labor Day), the number fell to 7 percent.

Movie reviewers are not the “enemy”, nor should they be salesmen for movie studios (vis-a-vis David Manning). A movie reviewer is no more to blame for a flop than your friend telling you not to see a dog of a film. There’s no one to blame or sue, no “justification to recoup losses”.

Instead of blaming others, movie studios should blame their own bad films, their own focus on “blockbusters” and special effects instead of good storytelling. Some of the most profitable movies in the last forty years (comparing budget to box office receipts) have had small budgets but excellent stories or captured the public’s imagination: Blair Witch Project; The Descent; The Full Monty; Get Out; Juno; Lost In Translation; My Big Fat Greek Wedding; Monster; Open Water; Saw; Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan; Slumdog Millionaire; among others.

If Hollyweird studios want to make money, they should hire new people with new ideas instead of hiring worn out and deflated retreads.


  1. says

    I’m part of their problem, in my own little tiny way.
    Whenever a movie comes out, I wait and check the reviews. If it’s a SFX Explosions!-fest or otherwise dreck, they don’t get my money and I wait until it is available on netflix or amazon prime, where I don’t wind up giving them any money. If it sounds like it’s getting good critical reviews and is a decent movie, I take a friend and we go have a big night at the theater.
    If everyone did that, there would never be another Ben Affleck batman movie, another Transformers movie, and talented directors would be finding their movies were actually dominating the box-office.

    • says

      I haven’t been to theatres in a long time for a variety of reasons – selfish jerks with cell phones, selfish jerks talking, crying kids, 30 minutes of ads before a movie, etc.

      I also have medical reasons for not going anymore (long story). The last movie I saw in a theatre was Resident Evil III, back in 2007.

  2. says

    I’m a tiny part of the crappy movie problem. The only movies I *do* watch in the theater is the ones Marcus @1 *doesn’t*.

    I don’t need a giant screen for strong story telling. I need them for big splashy ‘splosions and problems that are solved with power armored punching.

  3. says

    I do the same as Marcus. I quit going to theatres years ago, but we recently started going again, one of our local theatres is really nice, and we go during the week, so it’s quiet. We recently went for Wonder Woman, and Atomic Blonde. I wouldn’t have missed either one, but those are also movies I plan to buy, so obviously, I don’t have a problem watching them on a considerably smaller screen.

    Reviews matter to me, and I check out movies carefully before even considering going out for a night at the movies. I research stuff for my netflix queue, so yeah. Like Marcus, I won’t go for all the silly shit that’s all fights and explosions, the popcorn flicks can wait for netflix. I like interesting movies, and I like a lot of independent ones, too. So when those are at the theatre, I go. Sometimes, I know ahead of time when there’s something I’m going to want to see big screen, like the upcoming The Shape of Water. Can’t wait!

    While we suffered through five thousand previews for Atomic Blonde (made the mistake of going on Tuesday, which is half price day), I went through one near-fatal eyeroll after another, over the bloated, over-priced crap that will be dominating theatres for months to come. So, they most likely won’t be seeing us again until December.

    One thing we really like about netflix is being able to use the pause button, so we can talk without missing anything; control over captions; being able to have a beer or glass of wine; being able to smoke. As for my never-ending spinal problems, I take my meds before the movie and take my little pillow with me, for support. Those really help me to be able to get back into the fun of going out to the movies.

  4. says

    I hadn’t been to a theater for a while, then when Cloverfield came out I decided to go see it.

    Oh yeah. This is why sometimes the big screen experience is better than watching at home. While I’m not going to go see every blockbuster, if there is a movie I really want to see and support, I’ll go out and watch it.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    I’m with YOB. Movies for me are sorted into categories as follows:
    – give it a miss (example: anything involving Adam Sandler).
    – seek it out on Netflix/DVD/whatever because it looks good (e.g. “Locke”, starring Tom Hardy – absolutely wonderful, but didn’t need a big screen. To a certain extent didn’t even need a screen – it could almost work as a radio play.)
    – seek it out on Netflix/DVD/whatever because it looks BAD, but I still want to see it (e.g. Suicide Squad – really glad I didn’t shell out for that at the cinema). I might even (whisper it) obtain such things by other means so that I’m not rewarding any of the people responsible.
    – make sure to catch it on the biggest, best sounding screen I can (e.g. Wonder Woman, any MCU movie).

    Sometimes this strategy fails. I kind of wish I’d seen “Colossal” on a bigger screen, but then it’s really very much not the film I was expecting from the trailer and another part of me thinks my TV really was the best place for it. I recommend it, with a content note for unflinching depiction of domestic violence and alcoholism AND a fistfight between a skyscraper-sized robot and a huge alien monster over the skyline of Seoul.

    I’m obviously only contributing to the “bigger, louder, MORE” trend, but doing my best to only reward the people getting it right. Unfortunately, some movies (I’m looking at you, BvS:DOJ) seem review-proof.