As you might expect, I’m a big fan of Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website. Last Thursday they published an interesting article on the impact of polarizing movies on IMDB ratings, using Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power as an example. This is not the first instance of this happening and it won’t be the last.
When the new Ghostbusters movie with the all female cast came out in July 2016 there was a similar attempt to tank the IMDB ratings for that movie. That attempt was by men who resented the all female cast. At that time I posted this article. Has a year of new ratings done anything to smooth out the initial polarizing impact of the attempt to tank the ratings? Fortunately, IMDB has a nice little feature that allows you to look at the demographic distribution behind a movie’s rating. If you access IMDB on it’s website, clicking the number of votes that a rating is based on will get you to the demographics behind the rating.
Before looking at the distribution for Ghostbusters, let’s look at a movie that wasn’t polarizing. The 2016 movie Sully is such a movie according to the following demographics:
|Aged under 18||675||7.7|
|Males under 18||566||7.6|
|Females under 18||102||7.8|
|Males Aged 18-29||40830||7.5|
|Females Aged 18-29||8718||7.6|
|Males Aged 30-44||40321||7.4|
|Females Aged 30-44||6386||7.5|
|Males Aged 45+||9871||7.5|
|Females Aged 45+||1995||7.8|
|Top 1000 voters||437||7.2|
There is very little difference in the average rating (the number to the far right) among all of the groups. When you have a movie that is not polarizing, like Sully, the distribution by rating should look something like this:
It takes on the principles of a bell curve, with the most ratings clustering around the average for the movie.
Here’s what the demographic breakdown for Ghostbusters looks like today:
|Aged under 18||671||5.3|
|Males under 18||479||4.9|
|Females under 18||185||6.6|
|Males Aged 18-29||25659||5.0|
|Females Aged 18-29||10771||6.7|
|Males Aged 30-44||43516||5.0|
|Females Aged 30-44||9954||6.6|
|Males Aged 45+||9087||5.1|
|Females Aged 45+||2130||6.3|
|Top 1000 voters||482||4.9|
There is still a big gap in the ratings between men and women and it persists in all age groups. This polarizing effect produces a ratings distribution graph very different from the one for Sully.
It looks like a bell curve sitting inside a football goal post. But it is still useful because it suggests the average IMDB rating for the movie when you exclude the 1’s and the 10’s is around 6 rather than a 5.3.
You are probably thinking that, while interesting, is this information useful. Does it help me decide whether to watch a movie or not? Well, here’s the payoff. The big movie opening this weekend that the industry will be watching closely is Mother!. The buzz coming out of the film festivals is that it is a brilliant but polarizing movie. All four of the main actors (Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michele Pfeiffer, Ed Harris) are in the discussion for acting awards. I haven’t seen the movie but I don’t sense that it is politically polarizing like An Inconvenient Sequel and Ghostbusters. I think it probably impacts the sensibilities of different demographics in different ways.
So, should you go see Mother! this weekend? Fortunately, its early screenings at the film festivals give us an early peek at the data trends. The IMDB demographics so far are revealing. First, by looking at the rating distribution, you can see the goal post shape of the graph, confirming that the film is polarizing moviegoers.
57.5% of IMDB voters have rated it either a 10 or a 1. So are you likely to love it or hate it? Here’s what the demographics suggest:
|Aged under 18||25||8.4|
|Males under 18||18||8.2|
|Females under 18||6||10.0|
|Males Aged 18-29||305||7.5|
|Females Aged 18-29||98||6.1|
|Males Aged 30-44||215||5.0|
|Females Aged 30-44||69||5.2|
|Males Aged 45+||111||4.3|
|Females Aged 45+||40||4.1|
|Top 1000 voters||48||4.6|
While men like the movie more than women, if you are over 30, men and women hate the movie almost equally. There is also a 2 point gap between U.S. and non-U.S. voters. This is a small sample but it has a distinct trend. I’ll be interested to see if the trends hold up as the sample grows.
So, be forewarned. If you take your entire family to see Mother! this weekend, some of you will probably love the trip and some of you will probably wish you stayed home.