Will I "Really Like" this Movie?

Navigating Movie Website Ratings to Select More Enjoyable Movies

Archive for the tag “Moonlight”

Why Does CinemaScore Leave Out So Many Good Movies When Issuing Grades?

The 2017 Academy Awards will be forever remembered as the year that La La Land was awarded Best Picture for about a minute before they discovered that Moonlight was the actual winner. Those two movies have something else in common. Neither movie received a CinemaScore grade despite, arguably, being the top two movies of 2016.

I’m thinking about this issue this week because three movies with Oscar buzz, StrongerBattle of the Sexes, and Victoria and Abdul,  went into limited release last weekend. None of them were graded by Cinemascore. There is a valid reason for this but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing to movie pre-screeners like myself.

For me, Cinemascore is appealing because it measures only opening night reaction. Most people who go to the opening night of a movie are there because they really want to see that movie. The pre-release buzz has grabbed their attention to such an extent that they can’t wait to see it. They walk into an opening night movie expecting to love it. When they walk out of the movie and respond to CinemaScore’s survey they are probably grading based on expectations. So, when a movie receives an “A” from Cinemascore, it tells us that the movie lives up to the hype. Anything less than that suggests that the movie experience was less than they expected.

CinemaScore gets stuck when it comes to movies that are released in a limited number of theaters prior to them being released widely in most theaters. CinemaScore samples locations throughout the U.S. and Canada to establish a credible unbiased sample. When a movie goes into limited release, it is released in some of their sample locations but not in most of their sample locations. Last weekend, Stronger was released in 573 theaters, Battle of the Sexes was released in 21 theaters, and Victoria and Abdul was released in 4 theaters. To provide some perspective, Kingsman: The Golden Circle opened in 4,003 theaters last weekend and earned a “B+” grade from CinemaScore. When Stronger and Battle of the Sexes goes into wide release tomorrow, does word of mouth reaction from moviegoers who’ve seen the movie in the last week disturb the integrity of any sample taken this weekend? When Victoria and Abdul goes into wide release on October 6, is its release into just 4 theaters last weekend sufficiently small to not taint the sample? I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’ll be looking to see if these movies get graded when they go into wide release. In Box Office Mojo’s article on last weekend’s box office performance they indicate that CinemaScore graded Stronger an “A-” even though it hasn’t been officially posted on their website. Perhaps they are waiting to post it after wide release?

I understand why grades don’t exist on CinemaScore for many limited release movies. I understand the importance of data integrity in the creation of a credible survey. I will just observe, though, that in this age of social media, using limited movie releases to build pre-wide release momentum for quality movies is an increasingly viable strategy. Just this week, A24, the studio behind the rise of Moonlight last year, decided to put their dark horse candidate this year, Lady Bird, into limited release on November 3rd after it emerged from the Telluride and Toronto film festivals with a 100% Fresh grade from Rotten Tomatoes. CinemaScore may be facing the prospect of an even broader inventory of ungraded top tier movies than it does today. It will be interesting to see how they respond to this challenge, if at all.

 

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What Was The “Really Like” Movie of 2016? The Result May Surprise You.

According to Box Office Mojo, the website that tracks all things related to movie box office results, Baby Driver was last weekend’s big surprise at the box office. It also debuted in the number two spot on the 2017 Objective Top Fifteen posted on this site on Monday. What exactly does that mean? Not much yet. Think of it as the score in a game that is almost half over where most of the scoring occurs near the end of the game. The final result won’t crystalize until the Academy Award winners are announced next February. Also, keep in mind that most of the major Oscar contenders won’t be released until late in the year.

To give you some idea of what a final score does look like, here is the 2016 Objective Top Ten:

Top Ten 2016 Movies Based on Objective Criteria
As Of 7/7/2017
2016 Released Movies Oscar Noms/ Wins IMDB Rating Rotten Tomatoes Rating Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Cinema Score Objective “Really Like” Probability
Hacksaw Ridge 6/2 8.2 C. Fresh 87% A 65.9%
La La Land 14/6 8.2 C. Fresh 92% 65.7%
Big Short, The 5/1 7.8 C. Fresh 88% A- 65.4%
Moonlight 8/3 7.5 C. Fresh 98% 65.1%
Fences 4/1 7.3 C. Fresh 93% A- 65.0%
Rogue One 2/0 7.9 C. Fresh 85% A 64.7%
Deepwater Horizon 2/0 7.2 C. Fresh 84% A- 64.7%
Jungle Book, The 1/1 7.5 C. Fresh 95% A 64.6%
Sully 1/0 7.5 C. Fresh 85% A 64.6%
Revenant, The 12/3 8.0 C. Fresh 81% B+ 64.6%

Just to clarify, eligibility for the list is based on when a movie goes into wide release. This pits Oscar contenders from 2015, like The Big Short and The Revenant, that were widely released in early 2016 against Oscar contenders from 2016, like Moonlight and La La Land, that were widely released late in 2016.

Are you surprised that Hacksaw Ridge is the 2016 “Really Like” Movie of the Year? The response of movie watchers is what separates this movie from the others,. That, and the fact that Cinemascore for some reason didn’t survey La La Land. I will say this though. I have talked to people who didn’t like Moonlight. I have also talked to people who felt that La La Land was over-hyped. But, I haven’t talked to a single person who hasn’t “really liked” Hacksaw Ridge.

This ranking approach intersects a number of different movie viewing perspectives. Movie critics are represented in Rotten Tomatoes. People who go to the movie theaters on opening weekend and provide feedback before movie word of mouth has influenced their opinion are represented by Cinemascore. People who watch movies on a variety of platforms are represented by IMDB. And, finally, the people who understand how difficult it is to create movies, the artists themselves, are represented by their Academy Award performance. All of them are statistically significant indicators of whether you will “really like” a movie or not.

All of you won’t like every movie on this list. While there is around a 65% chance you will “really like” these movies, there is also around a 35% chance that you won’t. All I’m saying is that there is better chance that you will “really like” one of these movies rather than the latest installment in the Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean franchises.

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While my last paragraph may sound as if I have a reflexive aversion to movies that are part of a franchise, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether it’s part of a franchise or not, well made movies with fresh perspectives are worth the time of movie-lovers. The big movie opening this weekend is the second reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, Spider-Man: Homecoming and I’m really looking forward to it. The early indicators from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB are all positive. Keep an eye on this one.

After a Disappointing October at the Theaters, Get Ready for a Terrific November.

Maybe it’s me, but I thought that the October opening of the Oscar season this year was kind of a dud. The two leading Best Picture contenders released widely in October, The Birth of a Nation and The Girl on the Train, were over-hyped. Even the movies you might expect to be better than average crowd-pleasers were okay entertainments at best. One possible exception is The Accountant. Audiences seem to like it even though critics didn’t warm up to it. Its Rotten Tomatoes rating is 51% Rotten but its IMDB average rating is 7.8 so far. That being said, there was no movie released in October that was a “must see” for me. November, on the other hand, could rock.

November releases, on average, make up almost 12% of the total annual box office. Ticket sales are usually more than 40% higher than the average month. You would expect November to be a magnet for crowd-pleasing, Oscar-worthy movie releases. In fact, since 1990, 13.9% of all Best Picture nominees have been released in November, including the last three winners. Based on my own data, there is a 58% chance that I will “really like” a movie released in November. So with those kind of odds in our favor, let’s take a look at what interests me in November.

Seven of Awards Circuit’s top twenty Best Picture contenders will be released in November. I’m going with four of those seven and a “summer blockbuster” type being released in November.

Doctor Strange.    Release Date: November 4    “Really Like” Probability: 75%

Because Thanksgiving is such huge family movie weekend, you will usually find a “sure thing” franchise blockbuster released during the month of November. The box office king for the last three Novembers was the last three movies of the Hunger Games franchise. Before that it was the Harry Potter franchise. This year Marvel Studios and Disney Studios are making a big bet by launching the Doctor Strange franchise, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, in November. Entertainment Weekly has compared it to Inception and The Matrix in its “puzzle-box quality”. We already have an idea how good this movie is going to be because it had its Los Angeles premiere on Oct. 20th and premiered internationally on Oct. 25th. Early IMDB voting has it at an 8.4 rating so far and Rotten Tomatoes is at 96% Fresh based on 49 reviews. The November 4th U.S. release suggests that the producers are confident enough in this new franchise that it will be a “must see” movie by Thanksgiving.

Manchester by the Sea.  Release Date:  November 18   “Really Like” Probability: 65%

Every year The Black List surveys production companies to identify the best scripts they’ve read that haven’t been picked up for movie production. In 2014 Manchester by the Sea was near the top of that list. Two years later it is one of the leading contenders for Best Picture. Casey Affleck plays the lead character and is the current front runner for Best Actor. Can this Boston area based movie replicate the Oscar magic of last year’s Best Picture winner, Spotlight, another Boston based film released in November?

Moonlight. Wide Release Date: November 4     “Really Like” Probability: 60%

This film has come out of nowhere to become a legitimate Best Picture contender. Moonlight opened in four theaters last weekend and earned $413,174 in ticket sales. That is one of the top 25 average sales per theater opening of all time. It already has a 99% Certified Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.5 average rating from IMDB. It is about a young black man growing up in South Florida as he struggles with his sexual identity.

Arrival.   Wide Release Date: November 11     “Really Like” Probability: 55%

Can a movie about a linguist trying to prevent an alien invasion really be a Best Picture candidate? According to Awards Circuit, that is, in fact, the case. Amy Adams plays the linguist and is right in the middle of the discussion for a Best Actress nomination. So far, it is 100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes based on 49 critic reviews. This movie is going after the audience that loved The Martian last year. Count me in.

Hacksaw Ridge.     Wide Release Date: November 4     “Really Like” Probability: 50%

This film, based on a true story, features Andrew Garfield as a conscientious objector who wins the Medal of Honor in World War II despite the fact that he refuses to kill. Awards Circuit currently has it ranked 14th in the Best Picture race. Very early feedback on the movie is positive. The IMDB average rating is 8.7 and Rotten Tomatoes is 94% Fresh. It is an interesting premise and should make for an entertaining movie.

This is the first month since I started forecasting the upcoming movie month that I am really excited to see all of my picks for the month. There were even three Best Picture contenders that I left off my list. Does it get any better than November and December for great movie watching?

 

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