In February, Hope for the Unexpected

Unless you are still catching up with the Oscar nominated movies that you haven’t seen, February can be a tricky month for finding “really like” movies at the theaters. The winter months of January, February, and March don’t lure many moviegoers to the cinema. The average domestic box office gross for a movie widely released in February is a little over $28 million. For the entire year the average gross for a typical movie is in excess of $38 million. As a result, movie producers don’t release many movies that they’ve invested heavily in. You can see this in the size of the production budgets for February releases. The average February movie has a production budget of around $36 million compared to an average for the year of around $46 million. So should we just stay home and watch “really like” movies available on our streaming services? That’s actually not a bad strategy. I’m kidding! Well maybe a little bit

Unless you are still catching up with the Oscar nominated movies that you haven’t seen, February can be a tricky month for finding “really like” movies at the theaters. The winter months of January, February, and March don’t lure many moviegoers to the cinema. The average domestic box office gross for a movie widely released in February is a little over $28 million. For the entire year the average gross for a typical movie is in excess of $38 million. As a result, movie producers don’t release many movies that they’ve invested heavily in during the month of February. You can see this in the size of the production budgets for February releases. The average February movie has a production budget of around $36 million compared to an average for the year of around $46 million. So should we just stay home and watch “really like” movies available on our streaming services? That’s actually not a bad strategy. I’m kidding! Well maybe a little bit.

Seriously though, February is a tricky month but it’s not hopeless. Movie producers are skilled at finding a strategy that works at different times of year and sticking with it. For example in recent years, February has proven to be a good month to successfully kick off franchises for lesser known comic book characters like Deadpool and  Kingsman: The Secret Service. This year Marvel is kicking off the new franchise Black Panther in February. It premiered in Los Angeles on January 29th and opens overseas on February 13th before opening widely in the United States on February 16th. The early IMDB score is a promising 7.5. We won’t know if that rating is holding up until we get closer to the US opening. Stay tuned.

Many Oscar nominated movies for Best Foreign Language film weren’t released in the United States until the February after their overseas release to see if they could transform Oscar buzz into US Box Office success. The foreign classic Life is Beautiful was released in the United States in February. This year it is A Fantastic Woman, which opens in the US tomorrow, that is getting the buzz. The good thing about this foreign slice of February releases is that they already have a significant body of data from their prior year release overseas. A Fantastic Woman is Certified Fresh 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, has a Metacritic score of 90, and an IMDB average rating of 7.5.

If you are looking for an Oscar caliber movie in February, the odds are against you. Silence of the Lambs is the only movie released for the first time in February (not a prior year holdover) to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. If Get Out wins Best Picture this year it will become the second February release to do so. The one thing that both movies have in common is that they both had modest production budgets. Silence of the Lambs had a budget of $19 million and Get Out had a budget of $4.5 million. The other thing that they have in common is that they are both from the Horror/Thriller genre. The third thing they have in common was that their success was unexpected. I don’t see any movie on the February release schedule that I would expect to be this year’s Get Out, which, I guess, would make the emergence of such a movie, well, unexpected.

For 1987 to 1996, the Actress of the Decade Comes Down to a Coin Toss?

Three months ago I began a series of articles on the best actors and actresses of each of the nine decades of Oscar. I was satisfied with the approach I was taking until…this month.

Three months ago I began a series of articles on the best actors and actresses of each of the nine decades of Oscar. I was satisfied with the approach I was taking until…this month. My scoring system works great when the results come out like the 1987 to 1996 Actor of the Decade.

Top Actors of the Decade
1987 to 1996
Actor Lead Actor Nominations Lead Actor Wins Supporting Actor Nominations Supporting Actor Wins Total Academy Award Points
Tom Hanks 3 2 0 0 15
Anthony Hopkins 3 1 0 0 12
Robin Williams 3 0 0 0 9
Daniel Day Lewis 2 1 0 0 9
Al Pacino 1 1 2 0 8

Clearly, Tom Hanks deserves that honor since he won Best Actor twice and Anthony Hopkins won only once. Both were nominated three times.

Now, let’s look at the Actresses of the decade.

Top Actresses of the Decade
1987 to 1996
Actress Lead Actress Nominations Lead Actress Wins Supporting Actress Nominations Supporting Actress Wins Total Academy Award Points
Susan Sarandon 4 1 0 0 15
Jodie Foster 3 2 0 0 15
Emma Thompson 3 1 1 0 13
Meryl Streep 4 0 0 0 12
Holly Hunter 2 1 1 0 10

It’s a tie…and it’s kind of a mess. Including Supporting Actress nominations, Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, and Emma Thompson all have one more nomination than Jodie Foster. Because Jodie Foster won twice, she passes everyone except Susan Sarandon. The two actresses tie because my scoring system values a Lead Actress win twice as much as a nomination. Previously I’ve handled ties by letting IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes results for nominated movies act as a tie breaker. In this case, it’s inconclusive.

Tie Breakers for Top Actresses of the Decade
Avg IMDB & Rotten Tomatoes Ratings for Nominated Movies
Released from 1987 to 1996
Actor IMDB Avg Rating # of Votes Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh How Fresh? # of Critics Reviews
Susan Sarandon 7.3    242,422 88% Certified Fresh 191
Jodie Foster 8.5    971,401 84% Certified Fresh 125

The critics like Susan Sarandon’s movies more, but Jodie Foster rides Silence of the Lambs to a decisive IMDB nod.

In trying to decipher an advantage in these tie-breaker results, I reached a very different conclusion. They’re probably not that relevant. Critics and viewers may like a movie because of an actors performance, or they may like it for an entirely different reason. It isn’t like Oscar voting which is focused solely on the performance of a single actor. It would be better to use Golden Globe or Screen Actors Guild results as tie breakers or supplements to the scoring system.

And, is an Oscar win twice as valuable an indicator of greatness as an Oscar nomination? No, it’s even more valuable.

For Best Actress in a Leading Role
Number of Actresses Who Have:
% of Total Nominated
Been Nominated 219
Been Nominated More than Once 85 38.8%
Won 72 32.9%
Won More Than Once 13 5.9%

It is easier to be nominated twice than it is to win once. And, it has been more than five times as hard to win twice as it is to be nominated twice.

I’ve got to rework my scoring system. For now, with only two decades left to consider, we’ll keep it as it is. For Actress of this decade, it is a coin toss with a coin weighted towards Jodie Foster and her two wins.