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.)
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.