What’s This Movie’s Demographic Footprint?

A Quiet Place has attracted a young audience of both males and females

You’re probably looking at this week’s title and saying to yourself, “What is the Mad Movie Man getting us into this week?” Well, thanks to the folks at IMDB who provide demographic data of each movie based on their ratings, we can derive a demographic footprint for each movie.

Wait a minute, didn’t I tell you in these pages that IMDB ratings are skewed heavily towards men. I did. I’ll also tell you that the ratings are skewed towards IMDB voters older than 29. Based on my data sample, only 18.6% of all votes on IMDB are female votes. Additionally, only 38.8% of all votes are from movie fans under 30.   By scaling this data to the averages, we can begin to neutralize the biases of the data. From this data I can create the following scales:

Female % of IMDB Vote
“guy movie” Gender Neutral “Chick flick”
< 14%  14% – 23.3%  > 23.3%
Age < 30 % of IMDB Vote
“young adult’s  movie” Age Neutral “grown-ups movie”
< 29.1%  29.1% – 48.5%  > 48.5%

Additionally, IMDB provides average ratings by demographic group. We can use this data to determine if any particular group tends to like a movie more than others.

So, how would this work? Let’s say you are going to the movies this weekend and you are trying to decide which movie to see. The three movies below are all quality movies.

 

Movie Gender Orientation Gender Friendly Age Orientation Age Friendly
A Quiet Place Neutral Female < 30 30+
Ready Player One Male Neutral Neutral 30+
Love, Simon Female Female < 30 Neutral

Which movie you decide to see comes down to who you are going to see the movie with. There really aren’t any bad choices here. There are just more informed choices. A Quiet Place has attracted a young audience of both males and females but women and voters over 29 tend to like it more than the target audience. Ready Player One is a “guy” movie that women don’t seem to mind and older audiences seem to like more than younger audiences. And, Love, Simon is geared towards a young female audience that all ages seem to like. Which movie best fits your demographic footprint and the footprint of whoever is joining you at the movies should lead you to the best decision.

I’m excited about sharing this perspective on a given movie. I’ve already incorporated it into my weekly movie watch list. I’ll be incorporating this movie view into other lists I’ll be creating in the near future. I hope you find the approach useful. If you agree let me know.

 

 

Just Because a Movie Is Female Friendly Doesn’t Make It Female Oriented

Empowered women may make Star Wars: The Last Jedi a female friendly movie. At the end of the day, though, it is still a “guy movie”

Last Thursday I published the 2017 Objective Top Twenty. I promptly got blasted by my most important follower…my wife. She took one look at the list and said, “With the exception of Beauty and the Beast, these are all guy movies. That’s unacceptable.” I pointed out that six of the twenty received higher ratings from women than men. She replied, “It doesn’t matter. They are still guy movies.” As I thought about it, I agreed she was right. The movies may be female friendly but they are not movies that a woman would necessarily go to without being dragged there by some man. I had to fix this.

The first thing I did was profile the IMDB gender distribution of all of the movies on the list of movies considered for the top twenty. The first thing I discovered was that women, on average, rated the sample 3 points higher than men. When I leveled the ratings of the two groups it reduced the female friendly movies on the list from six to four. The second thing I discovered was that female IMDB votes make up only 17.4% of the entire sample. When we look again at the female percentage of all of the IMDB votes for Star Wars: The Last Jedi we discover that the female participation is a paltry 12.3% of the total. It’s definitely a guy movie. But, even when we level the ratings to compensate for the higher overall ratings of women, the female adjusted average rating for Star Wars is still 7.7 against a male rating of 7.5. This makes Star Wars: The Last Jedi a Male Oriented but Female Friendly movie.

Next I went in search of the 2017 movie that epitomizes “chick flick”, that movie which would make many men check their testosterone at the door. I came up with Girls Trip. Females still only make up 40.8% of all Girls Trip IMDB voters but it is significantly higher than the 17.4% for the entire sample. The adjusted average female rating for Girls Trip is 6.8. The male average rating is 5.9. This movie might be classified as Female Oriented and very Female Friendly.

I’m considering using the percentage of IMDB votes to classify movies as Male Oriented, Gender Neutral, or Female Oriented. Using this approach, the list of 2017 movies that are Female Oriented  and eligible for the Objective Top Twenty might include these movies:

2017 Released Movies Female % of All IMDB Votes
Beauty and the Beast  38.2%
Greatest Showman, The 36.6%
Hidden Figures 31.4%
Wonder 28.3%
Lion 26.7%
Lady Bird 26.5%
Coco 23.1%
Murder on the Orient Express 23.0%
Shape of Water, The 22.9%
Okja 22.3%

I believe that these movies pass the eye test as female oriented movies but first … I better ask my wife.

 

 

I’m Stating the Obvious But You Will Probably “Really Like” Oscar Nominated Movies.

You are more likely to “really like” a movie that has received an Oscar nomination than one that hasn’t. Now, there’s a bold statement. But while most people would intuitively agree with the statement, I have statistical data to support it

You are more likely to “really like” a movie that has received an Oscar nomination than one that hasn’t. Now, there’s a bold statement. But while most people would intuitively agree with the statement, I have statistical data to support it.

As followers of this blog are aware, I’m building a database of  objective movie ratings data from the past 25 years. Last week I added a fifth year of data. With each year that I add I can pose questions that are easier to test statistically, such as, do Oscar nominations have “really like” statistical significance. I even take it a step further by exploring if there are differences between major nominations and minor ones.

Major nominations are the commonly accepted major awards for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay. Minor nominations are for all of the other categories presented on Oscar night. It doesn’t include the special technical awards presented in a separate ceremony.

Here are the results for the years 1992 to 1996. The movies are grouped by whether they were awarded at least one major and/or minor nomination. The table represents the percentage of IMDB voters who gave the movies in each group a rating of 7 or higher.

Movies with: % 7+
Major & Minor Nominations 90.5%
Major Nominations Only 84.6%
Minor Nominations Only 74.7%
No Nominations 61.4%
All Sample Movies 73.0%

Major nominations have a clear statistical advantage over minor nominations. The size of the gap between movies with just minor nominations and those with no nominations might be surprising. My gut tells me that this gap will narrow as we add more years, especially when we add more recent years. But, it is interesting nonetheless. It does suggest that members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) understand their craft and that knowledge does a great job identifying the “really like” movies released in a given year.

There are more questions to answer regarding Oscar performance as a “really like” indicator. What is the predictive value of an Oscar win? Does predictive value increase with number of nominations that a movie receives? Does a Best Picture nomination have more predictive value than any other category? All of these questions and more will have to wait for more data.

One question we have answered is why all of the movies at the top of the Objective Top Twenty are Oscar nominated movies from last year’s voting. The other takeaway is that all of the other movies on the list that didn’t go through last year’s nominating process, probably won’t stay on the list unless their name is called on January 23, 2018 when this year’s Oscar nominations are announced.

***

It might be a light weekend for new Objective Top Twenty contenders. I’m keeping my eye on Only The Brave which chronicles the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, one of the elite firefighting units in the USA. As of this morning, it is 89% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and has a 7.3 on IMDB.

 

 

 

 

 

Will “You” Really Like This Movie?

If you reviewed this week’s Objective Top Twenty, you might have noticed something other than five additional movies on the list. You might have noticed that, other than Hidden Figures holding onto the number one spot on the list, all of the rankings had changed.

If you reviewed this week’s Objective Top Twenty, you might have noticed something other than five additional movies on the list. You might have noticed that, other than Hidden Figures holding onto the number one spot on the list, all of the rankings had changed.

A few month’s back I mentioned that I was developing a new objective database to project “really like” movies that are not influenced at all by my taste in movies. This week’s Objective Top Twenty reflects the early fruits of that labor.

The plan is to build a very robust database of all of the movies from the last twenty five years that finished in the top 150 in box office sales for each year . I have 1992 through 1995 completed which gives me enough movies to get started with.

The key change in the “really like” formula is that my algorithm measures the probability that users of the IMDB database will rate a particular movie as a 7 out of 10 or higher, which is my definition of a “really like” movie. The key components of the formula are IMDB Average Rating, Rotten Tomatoes Rating, CinemaScore Grade, and the number of  Academy Award wins and nominations for the major categories and for the minor categories.

In future posts, I’ll flesh out my logic for all of these factors. But, the key factor is the capability to measure on IMDB the percentage of IMDB voters who have rated a particular movie as a 7 or higher. When you aggregate all of the movies with a particular IMDB average rating you get results that look like this sample:

Avg. Rating % Rating 7+
                8.5 92.8%
                8.0 88.8%
                7.5 81.4%
                7.0 69.2%
                6.5 54.7%
                6.0 41.5%
                5.5 28.7%

Note that, just because a movie has an average rating of 7.0, doesn’t mean that every movie with a 7.0 average rating is a “really like” movie.  Only 69.2% of the votes cast for the movies with a 7.0 rating were ratings of 7 or higher. Conversely, every movie with an average rating of 6.0 isn’t always a “don’t really like” movie since 41.5% of the voters handed out 7’s or higher. It does mean, though, that the probability of a 7.0 average rated movie is more likely to be a “really like” movie than one with a 6.0 rating.

These changes represent a start down a path towards a movie pre-screening tool that is more useful to the followers of this blog. It is a work in progress that will only get better as more years are added to the database. But, we have a better answer now to the question, “Will you ‘really like’ this movie?”

***

If you’re going to the movies this weekend, chances are that you’re going to see Blade Runner 2049. The early indications are that it is going to live up to the hype. You might also check out The Florida Project, an under the radar movie that is getting some apparently well-deserved buzz.

So Now Rotten Tomatoes Has No Impact On the Box Office? Not So Fast.

There has been a conventional wisdom evolving that Rotten Tomatoes movie ratings are negatively impacting ticket sales at the movies. Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a counter argument made based on a study posted in a September 10th blog. The Wrap, Variety, and other websites reporting on the movie industry have run with the story that Rotten Tomatoes has little, if any, impact on movie ticket sales. I believe that is an oversimplification of the study and the intersection of movie ratings and movie consumption.

There has been a conventional wisdom evolving that Rotten Tomatoes movie ratings are negatively impacting ticket sales at the movies. Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a counter argument made based on a study posted in a September 10th blog. The Wrap, Variety, and other websites reporting on the movie industry have run with the story that Rotten Tomatoes has little, if any, impact on movie ticket sales. I believe that is an oversimplification of the study and the intersection of movie ratings and movie consumption.

The points made in the study that are getting the most attention are:

  1. There is very little statistical correlation between Rotten Tomatoes ratings and box office performance.
  2. The median Rotten Tomatoes rating for 2017 is 77.5% Fresh, whereas the ratings for each of the prior four years was either 72% or 73% Fresh.
  3. There is a correlation between Rotten Tomatoes ratings and Audience ratings.

So, the argument goes, you can’t blame Rotten Tomatoes for bad box office when it is statistically proven that it has no impact on box office and, by the way, critics have actually rated this year’s movies higher than last year’s, and audiences stay away from bad movies because they are more savvy today than they’ve been in the past.

I believe the third point should be the headline. When I’ve looked at this before  I’ve found a very strong correlation to the Certified Fresh, Fresh, and Rotten ratings and my “really like” ratings.  On the other hand, I’ve found that the percentage fresh rating has a weaker correlation to whether I’ll “really like” a movie. I wonder what the statistical correlation to box office performance is for the just the three broad ratings?

As to the second point, the overlooked item in the study is that not only have critics in the aggregate liked 2017 movies better that prior years, the worldwide box office has responded with higher ticket sales in 2017 than 2016. Is it possible that better movies in 2017 have translated into more people worldwide going to the movies?

The first point, and the one that became the headline in so many articles, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If there is a correlation between Rotten Tomatoes ratings and Audience ratings, doesn’t that suggest that Rotten Tomatoes has contributed to a more informed movie public And, because they are more informed, they are staying away from bad movies. Therefore, Rotten Tomatoes has impacted the box office. The fact that it is an indirect impact rather than a direct impact is a little misleading. Isn’t it?

Near the end of his study presentation Yves Berqquist, the author of the study, concludes that  “Audiences are becoming extremely adept at predicting and judging the quality of a film”. Rotten Tomatoes is just one of the tools audiences are using to pre-screen the movies they watch. IMDB ratings are taken into account as are Cinemascore grades. For example, Box Office Mojo, which is the go to site for movie box office information, specifically cited the “F” grade that Cinemascore gave to Mother! last weekend as a factor in the “supremely disappointing $7.5 million from 2,368 locations” opening weekend box office. Cinemascore has only given out nineteen F’s in almost forty years of movie surveys.

The movie industry may be looking for someone to blame for movie consumers behaving differently than they have in the past. But, the sooner the industry comes to grips with the new reality that movie audiences are more savvy today than they were in the past, the sooner they will improve their own fortunes. It is arrogant to blame Rotten Tomatoes for contributing to a more informed movie audience.

***

It has been seven weeks since a new movie, Detroit, joined The Objective Top Fifteen after its opening weekend. There is a chance that streak might be broken this weekend. Assuming Cinemascore surveys the movie, I think it’s likely that the Boston Marathon bombing bio-pic Stronger will join the list. I have hopes that Battle of the Sexes will sneak in as well. Check out my update on Monday to see how good my instincts were.

 

Before You See Mother! This Weekend, You Might Read This Article

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.

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:

Votes Average
Males  99301  7.4
Females  19115  7.6
Aged under 18  675  7.7
Males under 18  566  7.6
Females under 18  102  7.8
Aged 18-29  50050  7.5
Males Aged 18-29  40830  7.5
Females Aged 18-29  8718  7.6
Aged 30-44  47382  7.4
Males Aged 30-44  40321  7.4
Females Aged 30-44  6386  7.5
Aged 45+  12087  7.5
Males Aged 45+  9871  7.5
Females Aged 45+  1995  7.8
IMDb staff  17  7.7
Top 1000 voters  437  7.2
US users  17390  7.5
Non-US users  68746  7.4

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:

Votes  Percentage  Rating
12465  8.1% 10
19080  12.4% 9
52164  33.9% 8
47887  31.1% 7
15409  10.0% 6
4296  2.8% 5
1267  0.8% 4
589  0.4% 3
334  0.2% 2
576  0.4% 1

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:

Votes Average
Males  87119  5.0
Females  27237  6.7
Aged under 18  671  5.3
Males under 18  479  4.9
Females under 18  185  6.6
Aged 18-29  36898  5.4
Males Aged 18-29  25659  5.0
Females Aged 18-29  10771  6.7
Aged 30-44  54294  5.2
Males Aged 30-44  43516  5.0
Females Aged 30-44  9954  6.6
Aged 45+  11422  5.3
Males Aged 45+  9087  5.1
Females Aged 45+  2130  6.3
IMDb staff  45  7.4
Top 1000 voters  482  4.9
US users  25462  5.5
Non-US users  54869  5.2

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.

Votes  Percentage  Rating
20038  12.8% 10
6352  4.1% 9
13504  8.6% 8
20957  13.4% 7
24206  15.5% 6
18686  12.0% 5
10868  7.0% 4
7547  4.8% 3
6665  4.3% 2
27501  17.6% 1

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.

Votes  Percentage  Rating
486  36.0% 10
108  8.0% 9
112  8.3% 8
92  6.8% 7
77  5.7% 6
44  3.3% 5
49  3.6% 4
40  3.0% 3
52  3.8% 2
291  21.5% 1

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:

Votes Average
Males  717  6.1
Females  242  5.4
Aged under 18  25  8.4
Males under 18  18  8.2
Females under 18  6  10.0
Aged 18-29  404  7.3
Males Aged 18-29  305  7.5
Females Aged 18-29  98  6.1
Aged 30-44  288  5.0
Males Aged 30-44  215  5.0
Females Aged 30-44  69  5.2
Aged 45+  152  4.3
Males Aged 45+  111  4.3
Females Aged 45+  40  4.1
Top 1000 voters  48  4.6
US users  273  4.4
Non-US users  438  6.5

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.

 

When Art Mirrors Reality: American History X and the Events in Charlottesville

At the end of July I went through my monthly ritual of identifying movies I had watched 15 years ago and moving them onto my list of potential Watch List. One of these recycled movies, American History x, immediately moved to the top of my Watch List. Because it wasn’t available on any of the platforms I subscribe to, I added it to the top of my Netflix DVD queue. It was happenstance that I watched this DVD yesterday, a few days after the events in Charlottesville.

At the end of July I went through my monthly ritual of identifying movies I had watched 15 years ago and moving them onto my list of potential movies to watch now. One of these recycled movies, American History X,immediately moved to the top of my Watch List. Because it wasn’t available on any of the platforms I subscribe to, I added it to the top of my Netflix DVD queue. It was happenstance that I watched this DVD yesterday, a few days after the events in Charlottesville.

My experience has been that, when these movies come up for a second viewing fifteen years later, I have a couple of common recollections of the movie. I have a general memory of what the movie is about. I have very little memory of the details of the movie. And, most importantly, I have a distinct memory of whether I “really liked” the movie even if everything else about the movie is indistinct. If it happens that I remember “loving” a movie, I know that I am about to re-experience the highs of being a movie lover even if I can’t remember why.

I have no memory of American History X when it was first released. It was only a few years later that my exploration of IMDB surfaced this movie that was highly rated but was about a topic that repulsed me, the neo-Nazi movement in California. It took a little time but I finally overcame my reluctance and watched it in 2002, four years after it was released. I remember being surprised at how good a movie it was.

The movie is told in two stories. One story is the 24 hour period after Derek Vinyard, played by Edward Norton, is released from prison after serving three years for voluntary manslaughter of two black men who were attempting to steal his car. His prison experience leads him to rethink the path he followed and is determined to dissuade his younger brother, Danny, from following down the same path.

Danny tells the second story. At the beginning of the movie, a teacher, who is trying to get through to Danny, gives Danny an assignment to write a history about his brother, called American History X. This second story is a flashback, filmed in black and white, of Derek’s evolution from inquisitive high-schooler to neo-Nazi leader to his disillusionment with the movement.

I watched it yesterday with a heightened sense of its relevance. I listened to the rhetoric spewed by  Derek and was amazed how closely it mirrored the rhetoric we hear daily. I noted how the two main characters in the movie were well educated, just as many of the neo-Nazi marchers at Charlottesville were young college educated males. The movie portrays the recruitment of young men who have been preyed upon or feel vulnerable with the pitch that their problems are caused by “those people” rather than their own inability to cope with the lemons that life has tossed their way.

One scene in the film is particularly poignant. There is a flashback of high school aged Derek having breakfast with the father he idolized. Derek is expressing his excitement about a class he is having that is exposing him to cultural experiences of other races. His father, a fireman and otherwise decent man, shuts him down and proceeds to indoctrinate him in his racist “reality”. I immediately thought of Barack Obama’s viral tweet of the words of Nelson Mandela, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate…”

At the end of the movie, the younger brother, Danny, narrates the end of his American History X paper with the following words:

“So I guess this is where I tell you what I learned – my conclusion, right? Well, my conclusion is: Hate is baggage. Life’s too short to be pissed off all the time. It’s just not worth it. Derek says it’s always good to end a paper with a quote. He says someone else has already said it best. So if you can’t top it, steal from them and go out strong. So I picked a guy I thought you’d like. ‘We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.’ “

Danny is quoting here from Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address. We can only hope that the hardened shells of our hatred can be penetrated “by the better angels of our nature”.