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.

Chick Flicks Can Be Found in the Most Unusual Places

One of the best kept secrets, outside of Marvel Studios, is the widespread appeal that the Marvel Universe has for women.

Captain America: Civil War opens tomorrow in the United States. It is expected to have a huge box office weekend and beyond. The indicators are all in place. It opened last weekend internationally to an $80,000,000 gross in ticket sales. It is already #86 on the IMDB Top 250 with an 8.5 rating. And, Rotten Tomatoes has it at 93% Certified Fresh. And, women everywhere will be dragging along their significant other to witness the epic battle of superhero vs. superhero. Whaaaat??? Women???

One of the best kept secrets, outside of Marvel Studios, is the widespread appeal that the Marvel Universe has for women. Here are the IMDB ratings for the previous movies with Captain America: Civil War characters in them:

MOVIE MALE FEMALE
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 7.7 7.9
Captain America: The First Avenger 6.8 7.1
Avengers: Age of Ultron 7.4 7.7
The Avengers 8.1 8.3
Iron Man 3 7.2 7.7
Iron Man 2 7.0 7.3
Iron Man 7.9 7.9
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 6.7 7.2
The Amazing Spider-Man 7.0 7.4
Total IMDB Average 7.3 7.6

While technically, the Amazing Spider-Man movies were not part of the Marvel Universe, Spider-Man is a Marvel character whose rights have been restored Marvel with his appearance in this film.

The male to female splits in the IMDB ratings are comparable to Romantic Comedy splits. For some perspective, When Harry Met Sally has 7.6/7.7 split. The Princess Bride has an 81/82 split. The average of theses 9 Captain America: Civil War related movies is a 7.3/7.6 split, with 8 out of 9 being favored by women.

Other Marvel Universe movies reflect similar splits:

MOVIE MALE FEMALE
X-Men: First Class 7.7 7.9
X-Men: Days of Future Past 8.0 8.2
Thor: The Dark World 7.0 7.5
Thor 7.0 7.4
Deadpool 8.2 8.3
Guardians of the Galaxy 8.0 8.1
Fantastic Four 4.3 4.7
Total IMDB Average 7.2 7.4

I don’t know how to explain it but the consistent results don’t lie, women are quite at home in the Marvel Universe. Perhaps it is the humor that permeates the narratives. Perhaps it is focus on character development that pays as much attention to the human character as the super character. Whatever it is, it may be the critical difference between the success of Marvel movies in contrast to DC Comics movies, the splits on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice , for example, are 7.1 for Males and 6.9 for Females.

So, Ladies, enjoy Captain America: Civil War this weekend. Don’t be surprised, however, if your significant other would rather stay home and watch When Harry Met Sally.

***

After completing this post, I discovered that I had forgotten to include Ant-Man as one of the movies whose character appears in Captain America: Civil War. The splits in the IMDB ratings for Ant-Man are 7.3 Male and 7.5 Female. It’s uncanny.

According to IMDB, Do We Get More Conservative as We Age or Just Smarter

We are in the midst of a hotly contested election season in which the pundits attempt to place groups of people in defined boxes. Two of the boxes are the liberal youth vote and the conservative Senior Citizen vote. Some pundits argue that as Senior Citizens die off the country will become more liberal. Others argue that young people will become conservative as they age, maintaining the status quo. Do we become more conservative as we age? There are studies on both sides of the issue as evidenced in this 2012 article and this 2014 article.

I won’t attempt to resolve this issue here but, instead, use it as a backdrop for another interesting finding in my demographic study of IMDB’s Top 250 Movies. Age does appear to factor in IMDB voting. Take a look at these results by Age Group:

Avg. IMDB Rating
Age Group All Male Female
Under 18             8.7             8.8                       8.6
18 to 29             8.5             8.5                       8.4
30 to 45             8.3             8.4                       8.3
Over 45             8.2             8.2                       8.0

As IMDB voters get older, the average rating for the same group of movies is lower. It doesn’t matter whether the groups are male or female. The pattern is still the same. The fact that the avg. ratings for the female groups is consistently lower than the male groups is probably due to the bias towards male-oriented movies in the Top 250. Is this further evidence that we get more conservative as we get older?

I’ll offer up a counter-argument, maybe we get smarter as we get older. There are scientific studies that support this including those cited in this 2011 article. There is some IMDB support for this argument, as well. One of the demographic groups that IMDB captures data for is the Top 1,000 IMDB voters. These are voters who have rated the most movies on IMDB and presumably have watched the most movies. The avg. IMDB rating from this group for the Top 250 Movies is 7.9. Perhaps, the more movies that you watch, the smarter you get at differentiating one movie from another. If so, then maybe the lower average ratings for the older age groups are more representative of the experience gained from watching a greater number of movies. Whether we get more conservative or smarter as we age, it would be wise for the older moviegoer to recognize that the avg. IMDB rating is heavily influenced by males aged 18 to 29. You’ll need to apply a Senior Discount to the rating. What do you think?

 

Why Don’t More Women Rate Movies on IMDB?

According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Females represented 52% of all moviegoers in 2014. In my study of IMDB’s Top 250, only 16% of the votes cast for Top 250 movies were by women, interestingly close to the 18% participation of female critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

Last October Meryl Streep was at the London Film Festival promoting her new movie Suffragette, a film about the struggle to secure the vote for women in Britain. She used the opportunity to criticize Rotten Tomatoes for its underrepresentation of female critics in its Tomatometer, the tool Rotten Tomatoes uses to grade movies. She pointed out that there were 168 women to 760 men among the critics used by Rotten Tomatoes. She felt that this one sided bias was negatively impacting women-driven movies at the box office. In an interview with the Daily Beast she said “I submit to you that men and women are not the same, they like different things. Sometimes they like the same thing but sometimes their tastes diverge. If the Tomatometer is slighted so completely to one set of tastes that drives box office in the United States.”

Meryl Streep is spot on when she says that sometimes men and women like the same movies but often their tastes differ. For example, in a recent demographic study I put together of the IMDB Top 250 Movies, here were the top 5 movies for men and women:

Men Women
The Shawshank Redemption The Shawshank Redemption
The Godfather Schindler’s List
The Godfather: Part II The Godfather
The Dark Knight 12 Angry Men
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Men and women agree on two of the top 5 but disagree on the other 3.

Is Rotten Tomatoes restricting, or not encouraging, women to participate as critics for their website, or are women simply less interested in film criticism? According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Females represented 52% of all moviegoers in 2014. In my study of IMDB’s Top 250, only 16% of the votes cast for Top 250 movies were by women, interestingly close to the 18% participation of female critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Here are the female participation rates by age groups for the Top 250 study:

Age Group Female % of IMDB Votes
Under 18 21%
18 to 29 18%
30 to 45 14%
Over 45 16%

Some hypotheses for these results might include:

  1. Women are not as comfortable with technology as men, particularly in the older age groups.
  2. There is an unequal sharing of household responsibilities, particularly during the 30 to 45 child rearing years.
  3. Women go to the movies more than men because they don’t have time to watch movies when they are home. Men, on the other hand, find time to watch movies at home.
  4. There is a male bias to the Top 250 movies list.
  5. There are other things women would rather do than rate movies.

The data above is consistent with the first two hypotheses. The third hypothesis may also be a factor. My Top 250 data demonstrates that women have higher IMDB participation rates for newer movies, which supports greater viewership at movie theaters than at home.  When ranked by release date from the oldest to the newest and divided into two groups of 125, there is clearly greater participation across all age groups for newer movies.

Age Group Oldest 125 Movies (Median Release Date 1963) Newest 125 Movies (Median Release Date 2003)
Under 18 16% 23%
18 to 29 15% 20%
30 to 45 12% 15%
Over 45 16% 17%
All Ages 14% 18%

I think you see a convergence in the participation rates as the age groups get older because the old movies become more contemporary as the groups get older. But even for the oldest group, who may have watched many of the old movies when they were new, the participation is greater for the newer movies.

The fourth hypothesis is certainly true. In the Top 250 there are 142 movies that men rate higher than women and only 66 that women rate higher than men. But, in those 66 movies that women rate higher than men, women still are only 16% of the total vote.

In the final analysis, though, when you control for the first four hypotheses, I can’t get female participation in IMDB voting to a level greater than 23%. In fact, the single movie in the Top 250 with the highest female participation, the Audrey Hepburn classic Roman Holiday, has a participation rate of only 37%. By the way, the more contemporary version of the same movie, Notting Hill, has only 38% female participation.

All of which leaves me with hypothesis 5, rating movies is one of the things that you do on Mars rather than on Venus. Whatever the reason, Meryl Streep’s concern is real and change is hard. It happens one IMDB vote at a time.

Have I struck a nerve? Do you have any other hypotheses? Please leave comments.