Film criticism isn’t the same as it used to be in terms of influence (i.e. the era of Roger & Ebert), but reviews still have the power to sway the masses. After analyzing a chunk of data and box office numbers, Metacritic determined that reviews have a measurable impact on how well a movie does at the box office.

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Two recent critical failures, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Zoolander, turned out to be huge disappointments at the box office, with the former D.C. Comics blockbuster declining considerably in its second week after a surprisingly successful opening weekend.

Whether positive reviews lead to big box office numbers seems tough to determine decisively. But Metacritic tried anyway, using data from the past 10 years of major releases, including Metascores (a percentage that judges a film’s quality based on a roundup of reviews). The site concludes uneventfully that movies deemed critically “good” tend to bring in the most money.

Chart image via Metacritic

(IndieWire meanwhile makes the point that movie reviewers “are more concerned with influencing how people think about movies than whether they see them or not.”) Via Metacritic:

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Nationwide releases are heavily marketed prior to their release dates, and—especially for “event” films—thousands of tickets may be sold before a film’s first review appears online. It would be fair to assume, then, that many mainstream movies are somewhat “review-proof” for their opening weekends. However, moviegoers certainly seem to be able to sniff out crummy movies in advance, as there is a surprisingly strong correlation between film quality and opening weekend grosses:

Another obvious conclusion: films are most affected by bad reviews in their second week:

After the initial wave of support from any built-in fanbase, films perceived as poor quality will presumably fizzle out rather quickly, while those bolstered by positive reviews will continue to attract filmgoers. The data support this assumption, with ticket sales for lousy films falling off much more sharply over the first week than those for better quality releases.

You can look at a bunch of charts over at Metacritic to see all the data, but anyone who’s seen Batman v Superman or Zoolander with their own eyes knows they’re bad and money shouldn’t be spent on them.


Image screengrab via Yahoo