After the First Weekend, Think Small For August “Really Like” Movies

Easily the most anticipated movie release this August is the DC Comics movie Suicide Squad. Tracking numbers suggest that this could be the first August release to ever do $100,000,000+ at the box office in its opening weekend. The key piece of information in the last sentence isn’t that this high budget blockbuster movie is expected to do well. The key piece of information is that it could be the “first” August release to be a $100 million movie on opening weekend. August hasn’t historically been a good movie box office month

Easily the most anticipated movie release this August is the DC Comics movie Suicide Squad. Tracking numbers suggest that this could be the first August release to ever do $100,000,000+ at the box office in its opening weekend. The key piece of information in the last sentence isn’t that this high budget blockbuster movie is expected to do well. The key piece of information is that it could be the “first” August release to be a $100 million movie on opening weekend. August hasn’t historically been a good movie box office month. From 2011 to 2015, monthly box office sales averaged about $890 million a month. Over the same time frame, the August average box office was around $767 million, a below average month. It hasn’t typically been a month that is kind to blockbusters. In 2014, Disney struck gold with the August 1 release of the Marvel product, Guardians of the Galaxy  with a total gross sales of over $333 million against a $170 million budget. The following year Twentieth Century Fox tried to copy Guardians’ success by releasing the reboot of the Marvel comic creation Fantastic Four. It bombed, taking in a little over $56 million in total box office against a $120 million budget. Suicide Squad may very well determine the future of the first weekend in August as a launching pad for blockbusters.

You can find “really like” movies in every month. August is no different. Here are my top “really like” movies released in August:

Budget
Rear Window  $           1,000,000
In the Heat of the Night  $           2,000,000
Fugitive, The  $         44,000,000
Searching for Bobby Fischer  Not available
Sixth Sense, The  $         40,000,000

While all of these movies are excellent movies, August hasn’t been a particularly good month for “really like” movies. There is only a 41.9% probability that a movie released in August will be a “really like” movie for me.

Of the top 100 movies on IMDB’s Top Rated Movies list, only 4 were released in August, and all 4 were released over 35 years ago. Since the year 2000, there have been 106 Best Picture nominees. Only 4 were released in August:

Budget
The Help  $         25,000,000
District 9  $         30,000,000
Inglorious Basterds  $         75,000,000
Boyhood  $           4,000,000

The movies of quality released in August, prior to Guardians of the Galaxy, were typically low to modestly high budget movies. This makes sense when the month averages a below average box office.

Last year’s top August movies in terms of box office were:

Gross (000000) Budget (000000)
Straight Outta Compton $161.20  $                     28.00
War Room $67.80  $                       3.00
Fantastic Four $56.10  $                   120.00
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. $45.40  $                     75.00
The Gift $43.80  $                       5.00

The high budget movies bombed. The low budget movies succeeded.

You’ll need to come back on Thursday to see whether I think the Suicide Squad gamble will produce a “really like” movie. Beyond that I’ll be looking for modestly budgeted movies for my potential “really like” gems.

Do July Movies Crackle or Fizzle?

In the United States, the highlight of the month of July is the celebration of Independence Day on the 4th of July. It is commemorated by parades, cook outs, and firework spectaculars. For readers of this blog, though, you may be wondering if the movies released in July crackle like the firework displays put on in the cities claiming the mantle, “cradle of liberty” (Boston, New York and Philadelphia), or do they fizzle out like damp Roman Candles launched in your neighbor’s back yard. I’m happy to report that not only is July National Hot Dog Month in the U.S., it is also a pretty good month most years for movies

In the United States, the highlight of the month of July is the celebration of Independence Day on the 4th of July. It is commemorated by parades, cook outs, and firework spectaculars. For readers of this blog, though, you may be wondering if the movies released in July crackle like the firework displays put on in the cities claiming the mantle, “cradle of liberty” (Boston, New York and Philadelphia), or do they fizzle out like damp Roman Candles launched in your neighbor’s back yard. I’m happy to report that not only is July National Hot Dog Month in the U.S., it is also a pretty good month most years for movies.

Like June, July is a big month at the box office. For the five year period from 2011 to 2015, ticket sales per movie averaged $15.91 million. Over the same five year period ticket sales for movies released in July averaged $22.13 million, very close to June’s $22.45 million. Where June and July part ways is in the quality of the movies released. Of the top 75 movies  in IMDB’s Top 250, ten of them were released in July, compared to five in June. Based on the movies I’ve seen over the last 15 years, there is a 53.6% probability I will “really like” a movie released in July compared to 36.1% for June releases. Here are my top five “really like” July movie releases:

Oscar Noms. Oscar Wins Best Picture Noms
When Harry Met Sally 1
Saving Private Ryan 12 5 1
Dark Knight, The 8 2
Seabiscuit 7 1
Die Hard 4

All, with the possible exception of the very good Seabiscuit, are considered iconic by most film buffs and were strong Academy Award performers. Throw in Inception with its 8 nominations, including Best Picture, and 4 Academy Award wins, and the list is even more impressive. Based on the evidenced presented here, we might conclude that July movie releases crackle.

Let’s not be hasty, though. In the last ten years, of the 78 movies nominated for Best Picture, only Inception and The Dark Knight were released in July, a paltry 2.6% of the total. Take a look at last year’s top five July Box Office Movies and you begin to wonder, where’s the crackle?

Top Movies IMDB Avg Rating Rotten Tomatoes
Minions 6.4 Rotten 56%
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation 7.5 Cert. Fresh 93%
Ant-Man 7.4 Cert. Fresh 81%
Trainwreck 6.3 Cert. Fresh 85%
Terminator: Genisys 6.6 Rotten 26%

Of these five movies, only Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Ant-Man are “really like” prospects. Neither is destined to be labeled iconic. There isn’t a single Academy Award nomination of any kind in the group. 2014 wasn’t much better with only one nomination among the top five July releases. Does this mean that July used to crackle but now it fizzles?  I think a two year sample isn’t large enough to declare a trend but it’s worth watching.

On Thursday, I’ll take a shot at identifying five movies that have the potential to crackle this July. With five July weekends this year the odds are in our favor. Like every month, though, there will be movies that you expect to crackle but, like that damp Roman Candle, will fizzle out.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.