X-Men: Apocalypse dominated the box office this Memorial Day weekend taking in $65.3 million in ticket sales. It also received a less than enthusiastic response from the critics, earning a 49% Rotten grade from Rotten Tomatoes. Does this mean that Rotten Tomatoes has little impact on how well a movie does at the box office? Absolutely not. X-Men: Days of Future Past received a 91% Certified Fresh Rating when it opened on Memorial Day weekend in 2014 and took in $90.8 million in ticket sales. The latest entry into the X-Men franchise underperformed its predecessor by 28% at the box office for the same holiday weekend. I suspect much of that deficit was due to the lukewarm reviews X-Men: Apocalypse received.
The story isn’t the impact of bad reviews on this particular movie but the box office immunity that franchise action movies have in general. They come with a built in audience that will show up regardless of how the movie is reviewed. The following is a list of the top ten U.S. box office performers for action movies including their Rotten Tomatoes grades:
|Release Year||US Box Office (000000)||Rotten Tomatoes Grade||% Fresh|
|Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens||2015||$937||Certified Fresh||92%|
|The Avengers||2012||$623||Certified Fresh||92%|
|The Dark Knight||2008||$533||Certified Fresh||94%|
|Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace||1999||$475||Rotten||56%|
|Star Wars||1977||$461||Certified Fresh||94%|
|Avengers: Age of Ultron||2015||$459||Certified Fresh||75%|
|The Dark Knight Rises||2012||$448||Certified Fresh||87%|
|Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest||2006||$423||Rotten||54%|
These box office behemoths have combined for $5.8 billion in ticket sales. Three of these blockbusters aren’t graded Certified Fresh and a fourth, The Avengers: Age of Ultron just barely qualifies as Certified Fresh. What all of these movies have in common is that they are all part of movie franchises. Avatar 2, 3, 4, & 5 are scheduled for release between 2018 and 2023, in case you were wondering why Avatar is considered a franchise. Only Star Wars and Avatar didn’t come with a built in audience from a previous movie in the franchise. Eight of the ten movies were released during Movie Blockbuster season. The other two, Avatar and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, were released during Movie Award season, earning 14 Academy Award nominations and 3 wins. These movies have a combined IMDB rating of 8.2 for males and 8.1 for females. There is little gender gap for this genre.
Franchise Action Movies are box office gold for the good, the bad, and the ugly (a reference to a franchise of a different genre).