June Begins Something New

This post ushers in a new series of monthly posts for this blog. For the last two posts of each month I’ll be previewing the next month on the movie calendar. The first post will take a broad look at general trends for the month, using the data analysis you’ve grown accustomed to seeing on these pages

This post ushers in a new series of monthly posts for this blog. For the last two posts of each month I’ll be previewing the next month on the movie calendar. The first post will take a broad look at general trends for the month, using the data analysis you’ve grown accustomed to seeing on these pages. The second post will take a look at the specific movies being released during the month with an eye to identifying the best prospects for “really like” movies.

June has 8.2% of all of the days in the 2016 calendar and over the last five years 8.0% of all of the movies released have been released in June. Nothing startling there. What is noteworthy is that 11.3% of the annual movie theater gross box office sales is from June moviegoers. June generates above average revenue per movie released.

Who are the primary June moviegoers? College students home for summer vacation, with the stress of exam week behind them, are one source of movie traffic unique to June.. In the second half of the month, high school students, celebrating the end of another school year, and parents with younger children, trying to fill the extra hours available to spend with their kids, are another source.

So given the fact that June generates high revenue per movie driven by an influx of under 30 year olds, it shouldn’t be surprising that movies released in June have above average budgets and are targeted at young adults and children. In 2015 the top grossing June releases were:

Top Movies Gross (000000) Budget (000000)
Jurassic World $652.30  $                150.00
Inside Out $356.46  $                175.00
Spy $110.83  $                   65.00
Ted 2 $81.48  $                   68.00
Insidious Chapter 3 $52.22  $                   10.00

These five movies generated a gross box office of $1,253,290,000 against a combined budget of $468,000,000. Can you spell p-r-o-f-i-t-s?

The target audience in June is further reinforced by the IMDB demographic ratings for these five movies:

Under 30 Over 30
Top Movies Votes Rating Votes Rating
Jurassic World               165,019 7.1                 126,828             6.8
Inside Out               145,611                              8.4                   88,683             8.1
Spy                 67,352                            7.2                   53,304             6.9
Ted 2                 50,579                            6.5                   31,434             6.2
Insidious Chapter 3                 22,555                            6.2                   15,109             5.9
 All Five  $           451,116                            7.4  $             315,358             7.1

Under 30s rate these movies consistently higher than over 30s. Both demographics liked Inside Out and neither group was high on Ted 2 or Insidious: Chapter 2.

As a representative of the over 30 group, is June a good month for “really like” movies?  I’d say it’s a below average month. Based on the 168 June movies in my database, there is a 36.1% probability I will “really like” a movie released in June. Of the Top 50 IMDB movies, only 6% were released in June. Of the 43 Academy Award nominated movies for Best Picture over the last five years, only 2 were released in June.

It is just not a great month for adult-oriented movies. That being said, it isn’t a wasteland either. There are a number of movies that qualify as “really like” movies that were released in June. You might recall that movies recommended by all five of the websites I follow qualify as a “really like” movie. Here are five June “really like” movies:

Bourne Identity, The
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Apollo 13
Spider-Man 2
Cinderella Man

These five terrific movies offer up some hope that my search for June gems won’t result in a blank page when I return on Monday.

 

 

Will Family Movie Night Be Cringeworthy?

A fairly new site has been created, cringeMDb, which allows you to input a movie released between 1995 and 2015 to determine whether it is safe to watch with your parents.

One of the activities we enjoy doing as a family is a trip to the movie theater to watch a movie we all want to see. In the summer of 2005, that movie was The 40 year-old Virgin. The R rating didn’t scare us away from this well-reviewed movie, since the kids were aged 18 to 23. As we walked out of this funny, but raunchy, film, my wife turned to me and said, “That was uncomfortable”. Sitting with our children through explicit sexual references, one after the other, turned family “fun day” into family “awkward” day. While we had no way of knowing, since we didn’t want to discuss it with them, it had to be uncomfortable for my daughter and two sons as well.

Fortunately, there is a website that can help avoid those embarrassing movie viewing situations. A fairly new site has been created, cringeMDb, which allows you to input a movie released between 1995 and 2015 to determine whether it is safe to watch with your parents. It’s not going to help you decide if a recent release is cringeworthy, and I don’t know if the site has plans to periodically add newer movies to the site but it will include many of the movies you might watch as a family in front of your own TV.

To provide some perspective on what movies might qualify as cringeworthy, I tested the tool against the eight 2016 Best Picture nominees:

2016 Best Picture Nominee cringeMDb Rating
Big Short, The Certified Cringeworthy
Bridge of Spies Certified Parent-Safe
Brooklyn Certified Cringeworthy
Mad Max: Fury Road Certified Parent-Safe
Martian, The Certified Cringeworthy
Revenant, The Certified Cringeworthy
Room Certified Parent-Safe
Spotlight Certified Cringeworthy

The site goes beyond the traditional rating system. Note that the R rated Mad Max: Fury Road is Certified Parent-Safe while the PG-13 Brooklyn is Certified Cringeworthy. In my opinion, the tool needs some more work. CringeMDb has almost no tolerance for any nudity or sexuality. I mean really, The Martian is cringeworthy? Not all sexual situations are cringeworthy. Spotlight, which my wife and I watched with my son, generated discussion of the topic, not embarrassment. You can register whether you agree or disagree with the rating the site generates and ideally your input would feed their algorithm. Whether it does or not I can’t say. Hopefully, it does. I’m confident the “wisdom of crowds” would do a fairly good job of defining the line where a movie crosses over into the cringeworthy zone.  It is an interesting and useful idea for a site and it is well worth watching to see if the developers do more with it.

Done right, cringeMDb, my children will thank you.

 

 

 

 

To Every Movie, There is a Season

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines season as a division of the year marked by changes in weather, ecology, and hours of daylight. There are movie seasons as well. While movie seasons are somewhat related to the traditional seasons, movie seasons are marked by school vacations, holidays, and the timing of Academy Awards.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines season as a division of the year marked by changes in weather, ecology, and hours of daylight. There are movie seasons as well. While movie seasons are somewhat related to the traditional seasons, movie seasons are marked by school vacations, holidays, and the timing of the Academy Awards.

Dump Season 1.

To qualify for an Academy Award nomination for a given year, a movie must be shown in a Los Angeles County theater for at least seven consecutive days before the end of the calendar year. Any movie with an expectation of critical success meets this deadline to be eligible for award consideration. The movies that are released in January and February typically are those movies that are contractually obligated to be released but aren’t award worthy. They are dumped in these two months because fewer people go to the movies during this period.

Blockbuster Season.

From March through July, as Spring arrives and moves into Summer, the box office heats up. School vacations, Memorial Day, and Independence Day draw families and young moviegoers to the theaters. Big budget blockbusters and family friendly movies are targeted for these months.

Dump Season 2.

In August and September as tuition bills come due and kids go back to school, there is a box office lull in the movie calendar. This season is reserved for second tier blockbusters and “close but not quite” Oscar wannebes. It is sort of like a dump season lite. These aren’t terrible movies. They’re just not good enough for Blockbuster or Oscar season.

Oscar Season.

This season is for those movies with award pedigree. This is the season that adults go to the movies without their kids. The exception to this is for movies released around Thanksgiving and some of the movies released around Christmas. Reliable franchise movies, like the Hunger Games or Harry Potter franchises, release movies targeted at families around these holidays..

This is the conventional wisdom. Does the data support it?  In a later post I’ll incorporate Box Office data into a deeper look at the movie calendar. For now I’m focusing on movie quality indicators. From my database, I looked at three data points, IMDB Avg. Score for voters 45+ in age, Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh, and movies I “really liked”.

Release Months Industry Conventional Wisdom # of Movies Avg. IMDB Age 45+ % Certified Fresh %  I “Really Liked”
Jan-Feb Dump Months 1 153 7.2 30.1% 45.1%
Mar-Jul Blockbuster Months 726 7.3 44.8% 46.3%
Aug-Sep Dump Months 2 323 7.2 43.3% 44.9%
Oct-Dec Oscar Bait Months 772 7.4 49.7% 55.2%

The data generally supports the conventional wisdom. The two dump season periods are very similar with the second dump period enjoying better critical success than the first. This reflects the not quite Oscar worthy nature of the movies in the second dump season. Blockbuster season movies carry higher ratings than the dump months periods in all of the indicators. And, as you might expect, Oscar season ratings are the highest and are consistent with critically successful movie releases.

If you want to find movies that you will “really like” pay attention to the movie season it is released in. We all have our favorite season, even for movies.

***

I’ve made a change in my movies available to watch this week list. Because of slim pickings in the movies available, I’ve decided not to watch movies I haven’t seen that have less than a 50% probability that I will like them. The movies included on the list this week with less than 50% are movies that I watched over 15 years ago that I want to see again.

 

Rotten Tomatoes: When Fresh is Not So Fresh

All of these movies have been graded Fresh by at least 75% of the critics who have reviewed the movies. They fail the Certified Fresh test because not enough of Rotten Tomatoes’ critics have reviewed these movies. They fall into a hole in the Rotten Tomatoes ratings system.

What do Mary Poppins, The African Queen, Sleepless in Seattle, In the Heat of the Night, An Officer and a Gentleman, The Natural, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington all have in common? They are a few of the many Academy Award nominated movie classics that do not earn the Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh designation. The reason they aren’t Certified Fresh isn’t because movie critics didn’t like these movies. All of these movies have been graded Fresh by at least 75% of the critics who have reviewed the movies. They fail the Certified Fresh test because not enough of Rotten Tomatoes’ critics have reviewed these movies. They fall into a hole in the Rotten Tomatoes ratings system.

Rotten Tomatoes established their website in 1998. Movie critics for the most part review today’s movies. So the movies with the most reviews used in the Rotten Tomatoes ratings are for those released after 1997. Some of the original Rotten Tomatoes critics, Roger Ebert for example, had been writing reviews for a number of years and had also reviewed some of the classic movies. These few critics gave some of the older movies some reviews in Rotten Tomatoes. But over the years, there haven’t been enough critic reviews of the pre-1998 movie releases to meet the 40 review minimum for limited release movies and 80 review minimum for wide release movies. The movies that would otherwise be graded Certified Fresh except for their failure to meet the minimum critic reviews are graded as Fresh.

There are legitimate reasons for having these minimums. Having 75% of the critics grade a movie as Fresh could be as much about randomness as quality. There is no denying, though, that the movies mentioned above and many more like them would be Certified Fresh if they had been released after 1997.

Does it matter that these movies fall through the Rotten Tomatoes cracks? Yes, if Certified Fresh is your threshold for watching a particular movie. There is a whole universe of movies of higher quality that you are missing, many of much higher quality than some of today’s Certified Fresh movies. Because I use Certified Fresh as criteria for a recommended movie, it biases my movie selections to more recent films.

What can we do about it? How do we determine if the pre-1998 movie is of Certified Fresh quality and not some movie that is randomly Fresh? One idea I’ve come up with is to treat pre-1998 movies graded as Fresh, that were also nominated for an Academy Award, as a Recommended Movie. There are 418 movies released since 1998 that have been nominated for an Academy Award that are in my database. 80% of those nominated movies have been graded by Rotten Tomatoes as Certified Fresh. In contrast,  the remaining 718 non-nominated post-1998 movies in my database were Certified Fresh only 37.5% of the time. There is clearly a strong correlation between an Academy Award nomination and a Certified Fresh rating. When I change my definition of a Rotten Tomatoes Recommended Movie to include pre-1998, Academy Award nominated movies that were graded 75%+ Fresh by Rotten Tomatoes, the probability that I will “really like” the Rotten Tomatoes Recommended Movie goes from 82% to 86%.

This seems to me to be a viable alternative to the not so Fresh Rotten Tomatoes conundrum. What do you think?

 

IMDB…and the Oscar Goes To

On Sunday, the 2016 Academy Award for Best Picture will be announced. The pundits expect a close race among Spotlight, The Revenant,  and The Big Short, with Mad Max: Fury Road a possibility for an upset. Six weeks ago the Las Vegas odds makers had set the odds for each movie as follows:

  1. Spotlight                                    4:5
  2. The Revenant                           6:5
  3. The Big Short                            8:1
  4. The Martian                               8:1
  5. Mad Max: fury Road              20:1
  6. Bridge of Spies                        30:1
  7. Room                                          40:1
  8. Brooklyn                                    50:1

To determine a winner, voters from the Academy membership, representing a variety of film disciplines, vote for the movie that represents the highest cinematic achievement of 2015. The discipline with the highest representation in the voting is acting. Actors make up 22% of the Academy voters and presumably have the greatest influence on the ultimate winner.

What if IMDB voters chose the Academy Award winner for Best Picture? While IMDB voters don’t represent a variety of film disciplines, they do represent different demographic perspectives. If each of these demographic slices of the IMDB voters chose the Best Picture winner, the results for each group would be:

  • Age Under 18                              The Revenant
  • Age 18 – 29                                   Room
  • Age 30 – 44                                   Room
  • Age 45+                                          Spotlight
  • Males                                              Room
  • Females                                         Room
  • United States                               Room, Spotlight (tie)
  • Non-United States                     Room

And, after combining the votes for all of these IMDB voter groups, the Oscar, in an upset, goes to Room.

The average IMDB ratings (as of February 22, 2016) for the eight nominees reflect a tight race:

  1. Room                                            8.3
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road                8.2
  3. The Revenant                             8.2
  4. Spotlight                                      8.2
  5. The Martian                                8.1
  6. The Big Short                             7.9
  7. Bridge of Spies                           7.7
  8. Brooklyn                                      7.6

Although the co-star of Room, Brie Larson, is the favorite to win Best Actress, I don’t believe Room will win Best Picture on Sunday. Academy voters and IMDB voters are very different. Just as actors will have the greatest influence over who wins the Oscar for Best Picture tomorrow, there are demographic segments that have heavily influenced our IMDB voting for Best Picture. Here are the three primary groups influencing the IMDB vote with their percentage of the aggregate IMDB vote for all eight movies displayed alongside:

  • Voters Aged 18 – 29             52% of total vote
  • Non-US Voters                     79% of total vote
  • Male voters                            84% of total vote

Although the IMDB voting for Room reflects a pretty strong consensus across almost all groups, the vote is dominated by Young, Male, Non-US IMDB voters.

Sunday night, as you watch the Oscars, the lack of diversity among the Academy nominees will be the topic most commented on by Chris Rock, the emcee, the presenters, and the winners. But if you really want to know why  a particular actor or actress didn’t get a nomination, or why a particular movie didn’t win IMDB Best Picture, check out who voted. It’s all there.