#Reviews and #BoxOffice performance of recent #superhero #movies

Do reviews influence box office performances for superhero franchises?

The three most regarded movie ratings are:

  • The TOMATOMETER is the percentage of “Approved Tomatometer Critics” who have given the movie a positive review. The site RottenTomatoes.com also features an Audience Score, percentage of users who have rated the movie 3.5 stars or higher, although its influence is generally taken less into consideration.

The website was launched in 1998, sold to Flixster in 2010, itself acquired in 2011 by Warner Bros., then sold in 2016 to Comcast/NBCUniversal’s Fandango Media, in which TimeWarner/WarnerBros retains a 30% minority stake.

  • The METASCORE is a weighted average of the published critic reviews contained in the chart on that title. The site also features a User Score based on users’ reviews.

The website MetaCritic.com was founded in 1999, sold in 2005 to CNET, which is owned through CBS Interactive by the CBS Corp. (which after the split from Viacom in 2005 no longer owns Paramount Pictures).

  • The IMDb RATING is the weighted average of all the individual votes cast by IMDb registered users. The Metascore is also visible next to the title.

The site IMDb.com was launched in 1990, incorporated in the UK as Internet Movie Database Ltd in 1996, became a subsidiary of Amazon.com in 1998.

Now let’s play a game and see to what extent reviews influenced the box office of superhero movies, wide release, budget $100M+. There is perhaps no path and probably no correlation at all. But let’s have some fun anyways and see if we can creatively draw any kind of conclusions, first for each franchise and then in general.

First of all, please note that each title will be followed by five numbers which represent respectively: Tomatometer (%) | Metascore | IMDb Rating | Domestic b.o. ($,M) | Foreign b.o. ($,M) | Opening ($,M). Indicators below 60 or 6.0 will be colored red.

Also, we will find out average scores for each franchise. We will select five titles for each “universe”. Yes, of course, there will be some forced and some exclusions. Please don’t get mad, purists. The single best one-to-one comparison would probably be Guardians of the Galaxy.

Finally, after having seen how much has each franchise grossed on average, using forecasts for DC Extended Universe’s Suicide Squad, we will see totals related to reviews and box office performances for the superhero genre.


DC Extended Universe (Warner Bros.) | 58 | 60 | 7.8 | 381 | 505 | 149

The Dark Knight (2008) | 94 | 82 | 9.0 | 535 | 470 | 158

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) | 87 | 78 | 8.5 | 448 | 637 | 161

Man of Steel (2013) | 55 | 55 | 7.2 | 291 | 377 | 117

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) | 27 | 44 | 6.9 | 330 | 542 | 166

Suicide Squad (2016) | 26 | 40 | 7.2 | 300 | 500 | 140

DC Comics movies were not particularly appreciated by critics, although fans liked them more than any other competing franchise and they generally responded well at the box office. Suicide Squad is expected to follow a similar path. They have the worst score in terms of critics ratings, best from fans, although open as strong as the Marvel movies.


Marvel Cinematic Universe (The Walt Disney Pictures) | 83 | 68 | 7.6 | 400 | 656 | 146

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) | 80 | 66 | 6.9 | 177 | 194 | 65

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) | 92 | 69 | 8.1 | 623 | 896 | 207

Iron Man 3 (2013) | 79 | 62 | 7.2 | 409 | 806 | 174

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) | 91 | 76 | 8.1 | 330 | 440 | 94

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) | 75 | 66 | 7.5 | 459 | 946 | 191

Marvel movies were loved even more by critics than fans, they performed great domestically and fantastic internationally and most importantly they seem to be on a growing path. Best critics reviews, second-best fans ratings, by far best international performance.


X-Men (20th Century Fox) | 64 | 58 | 7.3 | 190 | 304 | 80

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) | 58 | 58 | 6.8 | 234 | 225 | 103

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) | 38 | 40 | 6.7 | 180 | 193 | 85

X-Men: First Class (2011) | 86 | 65 | 7.8 | 146 | 207 | 55

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) | 91 | 74 | 8.0 | 234 | 514 | 90

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) | 48 | 52 | 7.3 | 155 | 379 | 66

X-Men movies were not particularly appreciated by critics although fans liked them, however they performed relatively poorly domestically due to bad openings but significantly better internationally in the medium run.


Spider-Man (Sony Pictures) | 74 | 67 | 6.9 | 316 | 477 | 102

Spider-Man (2002) | 89 | 73 | 7.3 | 404 | 418 | 115

Spider-Man 2 (2004) | 93 | 83 | 7.3 | 374 | 410 | 88

Spider-Man 3 (2007) | 63 | 59 | 6.2 | 337 | 554 | 151

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) | 73 | 66 | 7.0 | 262 | 496 | 62

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) | 52 | 53 | 6.8 | 203 | 506 | 92

Critics liked Spider-Man movies and fans were also happy on average, hurrying to purchase movie tickets especially in the early chapters of the franchise and despite relatively low openings.


Totals | 70 | 63 | 7.5 | 320 | 483 | 118

All in all, critics are only fairly excited by superhero movies whereas fans love them and respond exceptionally well hurrying to see them immediately in a movie theater and for long time after openings, in the United States as well as internationally. As expected, bad reviews by critics don’t seem to affect significantly their performance in the medium/long-run, although (with the exception of Batman v Superman) there seems to be a moderate correlation with the box office performance in the opening weekend.


Is China slowing down?

The Chinese box-office is up by 21% in the first 6 months of 2016 compared to the same period of last year when it amounted $3.22B. Last year it surged by 49% to $6.78B for the year.

So, are Chinese movie tickets sales slowing down?

It should be taken into account that in the first 6 months of last year Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Jurassic World, which together grossed $860M were released, whereas this year the top 3 Hollywood releases, Zootopia, Warcraft, and Captain America: Civil War grossed $647M . In total, imported films have seen only 5% growth year-on-year, whereas domestic films have fared better, with receipts growing 33% from $1.5 billion to $2 billion in the first half due mostly to the exceptional results of The Mermaid, which grossed about $527M.


‘The Mermaid’ grossed $527M in China.

Therefore, so far we can’t claim any “conclusive change” in the general growth trend in the market, but a shift related to the titles that have been released so far in 2016 compared with 2015.

In addition, it should be taken into account that the 6-month average CNY to USD rate has fallen from 0.1608 to 0.1529 or 4.91%.

What we can claim for sure by now is that Chinese moviegoers have different tastes. For instance, Warcraft grossed $221M and only $46M domestically, on the contrary Star Wars: The Force Awakens grossed $124M in China and $937M domestically.

There is another big difference. Movie tickets are relatively more expensive in China than they are in the US, at least in the cities. The price of 2 tickets to the movies in Beijing is 元117 (元117) or $18 (about the same price of monthly utilities in a luxury studio in downtown) even though the average price is starting to slip — down about 2.5% to $5.36. IMAX and 3-D premiums are continuing to hold up and driving overall revenue. Also, another opportunity is given by the fact that movie tickets are usually cheaper when purchased online in advance.

All in all, China saw a 40% growth in screens, now totaling about 32,000 or about 23 every million people but box office was up 48% in 2015.

To sum up, there is still room for substantial growth in terms of exports, due also to their greater openness to welcome foreign product, however the Chinese market is now already mature enough to be worth of being considered in terms of major investments in local productions, co-productions, as well as joint ventures and stable distribution partnerships.

#GoldenGlobes and the box office


The five nominees in the Best Motion Picture, Drama category.

Best Motion Picture, Drama
Carol (The Weinstein Company) | $7,004,358 +  $8,402,177 | N/A
Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.) | $153,636,354 + $222,200,200 | $150M
WINNER: The Revenant (Fox) | $41,383,741 + $20,487,466 | $135M 
Room (A24) | $5,166,724 + N/A | N/A
Spotlight (Open Road) | $28,546,477 + $309,218 | N/A

‘The Revenant’ won the award and opened strongly, but the outsiders ‘Room’, ‘Carol’ and partly ‘Spotlight’, for some the most important movie of this batch but a difficult one, will hopefully gain stronger market traction in home video windows thanks to the visibility provided by the Golden Globes. The big “loser” in this category is ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, which instead seems to be the only title meant to become a cult for the years to come and perform exceptionally in home video for long time, as showed by the extraordinary reception from the public: George Miller’s long-awaited return to the dusty dystopian Aussie badlands, which also won the prize for best-reviewed science-fiction movie, was named the top film on wide release after scoring a 97% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. How many times have you seen it? I watched it three times and I would watch it again. Pure adrenaline. Hopefully will get some recognition from the Academy.


The five nominees in the Best Motion Picture, Musical, or Comedy category.

Best Motion Picture, Musical, or Comedy
The Big Short (Paramount) | $42,724,340 + $9,700,000 | $28M
Joy (Fox) | $46,531,854 + $23,679,037 | $60M
WINNER: The Martian (Fox) | $226,486,935 + $369,269,299 | $108M
Spy (Fox) | $110,825,712 + $124,840,712 | $65M
Trainwreck (Universal) | $110,212,700 + $29,296,198 | $35M

Although funny at times, ‘The Martian’ should simply not have been placed in this category. Nonetheless, having grossed 62% outside the US, it “travels” much better than the usual comedy, thanks also to a very smart marketing campaign and, we shall say, thanks to Matt Damon. ‘Joy’ could have performed better but the release date (Christmas day) did not play in his favor. It is a wonderful story but, despite the amazing acting performances, seemed incomplete and pretentious sometimes. ‘The Big Short’ is the most original and even eccentric film in this category but as expected it has been struggling overseas due to the US-centered subject, despite the star-filled cast. ‘Spy’ and ‘Trainwreck’ both exceeded expectations, especially the very funny Paul Feig’s movie.


‘Inside Out’ producer Jonas Rivera and director Pete Docter.


Best Motion Picture, Animated
Anomalisa (Paramount) | $486,076 + N/A | $8M
The Good Dinosaur (Disney) | $117,438,706 + $148,700,000 | N/A
WINNER: Inside Out (Disney) | $356,461,711 + $499,668,421 | $175M
The Peanuts Movie (Fox) | $129,152,908 + $92,114,145 | $99M
Shaun the Sheep Movie (Lionsgate) | $19,375,982 + $64,100,000 | N/A

‘Inside Out’ is hands down the best animated film of 2015 from all point of views and a masterpiece for the years to come. Thanks, Pixar. Well done again, Disney. It also performed exceptionally well at the box office due to its cross-generational appeal, which is partially missing in the other nominees. ‘Anomalisa’ is a little gem that will be enjoyed by many in VOD.


Legend: Title (US Distributor) | Domestic gross + Foreign gross | Production budget

Source of data: BoxOfficeMojo.com

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, sleeper film for this Summer

Greg (Thomas Mann), a high school senior who is trying to blend in anonymously, avoids deeper relationships as a survival strategy for navigating the social minefield that is teenage life. He even describes his constant companion Earl (RJ Cyler), with whom he makes short film parodies of classic movies, as more of a ‘co-worker’ than a best friend. But when Greg’s mom (Connie Britton) insists he spend time with Rachel (Olivia Cooke) – a girl in his class who has just been diagnosed with cancer – he slowly discovers how worthwhile the true bonds of friendship can be.

Me & Earl & the Dying Girl is an upcoming American comedy-drama film, rated PG-13, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Glee, American Horror Story) and written by Jesse Andrews, based on Andrews’ 2012 debut novel of the same name, which sold more than 7 million copies. It stars Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke (Ouija) and Jon Bernthal (Fury, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Walking Dead) and premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival to a standing ovation (http://variety.com/2015/film/festivals/sundance-film-review-me-and-earl-and-the-dying-girl-1201414455/). The production budget was about $5.6 million.

It won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and the Audience Award for U.S. Drama at the festival. The film is scheduled to be released on June 12 by Fox Searchlight, which acquired the rights from Indian Paintbrush for about $8 million plus profit participation  winning the competition of many bidders including Focus Features, CBS Films, Lionsgate, A24, Miramax and TWC (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/sundance-why-me-earl-dying-767545) and following a lot of media hype on the actual price tag (http://deadline.com/2015/01/me-and-earl-and-the-dying-girl-sundance-record-bidding-1201358903/).


Fox Searchlight, one of the best for taking care of this kind of films (see also Little Miss Sunshine) will follow the path traced by 20th Century Fox last year with the phenomenon The Fault In Our Stars, released on June 6, grossing $124 million domestically and $182 million internationally. The basic strategy is to counterprogram a sci-fi big-budget blockbuster: it was Edge of Tomorrow last year, it will be Jurassic World this year, leveraging on amazing reviews and positive word-of-mouth on social media (the film has currently 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, 8.3/10 on IMDb, 92/100 Metascore). It will start with a limited release but it is going to expand while consensus will grow and moviegoers will notice the quality of this little gem, which will hit the Summer market like a rain of sunshine after a rainstorm and gross at least $50 million domestically.

Global box office inflated by Chinese wind, US suffering

According to the annual Theatrical Market Statistics Report for 2014 by the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) released yesterday, the global box office increased by 1% to a new record of $36.4 billion. Domestic (U.S./Canada) dropped by 5% at $10.4 billion. The Asia Pacific region was up by 12% overall, whereas China’s total of $4.8 billion (first international market to exceed $4 billion) was up a huge 34%, which alone improved the combined global total. Latin America box office increased 2% (but is up 46% from 2010) to $3 billion, Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) decreased 3% ($10.9 to $10.6 billion) from 2013, due to decreases in larger European markets such as Germany (-7%) and the U.K. (-1%).


As far as the infrastructure, total cinema screens increased 6% worldwide in 2014 to over 142,000, due in large part to continued double digit growth in the Asia Pacific region (+15%) now accounting for more than 47.3 thousand screens against 43.2 in US/Canada, 40.4 in EMEA, 11.2 in Latin America. 90% of the world’s cinema screens are now digital, up 7 percentage points from 2013 (83%), 51% (47% in 2013) of which are 3D. In particular, in the US, the majority of screens (84%) are located at venues with 8 or more screens. The number of screens at venues with seven or fewer screens continued to decline, despite an overall increase in the number of screens.

Looking at moviegoing in the domestic market, what is particularly worrying is the drop of admissions: tickets sold (1.27 billion), and average tickets sold per person (3.7) both declined by 6% in 2014 in US and Canada, which is the lowest level in many decades, while the average cinema ticket price increased by only 4 cents (less than 1%) in 2014, less than the rate of inflation in the economy.

Going more in depth, 229.7 million people (68% of of the U.S./Canada population aged 2+, 52% female and 48% male) went to a movie at the cinema at least once in 2014 (“moviegoer”):

  • the typical moviegoer bought 5.5 tickets over the course of the year (down from 5.9 tickets in 2013);
  • frequent moviegoers (once a month or more) are 11% of the population but accounts for 51% of all tickets sold, a 1.2 million and 3% increase from 2013;
  • the number of frequent moviegoers increased (40-49 and 60+) or remained flat (50-59) among 40+ age groups, but fell or remained constant for younger age groups, including the largest frequent-moviegoing age groups (18-24 year olds and 25-39 year olds are 1.7 and 2.7 million less respectively within the last two years);
  • per capita attendance declined for all age groups under the age of 40, increased for 40-49 year olds (3.6) and 50-59 year olds (3.1), which also had their share of tickets sold at all times high and remained flat for 60+ year olds compared to 2013, even though the 12-17 year old age group (6.4) had the highest per capita attendance, followed by 18-24 year olds (6.2);
  • despite a decline in 2014, Hispanics especially continuing to oversample in tickets sold versus their proportion of the population, while Caucasian and Asian/Other frequent moviegoers increased in 2014 compared to 2013;
  • over two-thirds of all frequent moviegoers (73%) own at least four different types of key technology products, compared to 55% of the total adult population;
  • California and Texas had more moviegoers and the largest number of frequent moviegoers (5.9 and 4.1 million, respectively).


Other key trends to keep in mind:

  • 3D is less appealing than ever but highest grossing films are released also in 3D. The percentage of the population who were 3D moviegoers in 2014 fell for all age groups, with larger declines for age groups below 40 years old and the format comprising 14% of the overall box office, however 9 of the top 10 and 15 of the top 25 films were released in 3D.
  • More theatrical releases. Films released in theaters by MPAA member studios increased for the first time in five years, reaching 136 in 2014, a +19% compared to 2013. Total films released and films by non-MPAA member studios also increased from 2013 (up to 707 or 7% and to 571 or 5%, respectively),  higher than any other year in the last decade.
  • PG-13 films comprised 14 of the top 25 films in release during 2014.
  • Total film produced for theatrical release with a budget of $1 million or higher were 481 (+6%), of which 110 (+4% were MPAA member studio films.
  • Among the top five grossing films in 2014, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Solider, The Lego Movie (which earned 64% of box office revenue from Caucasian audiences) and Transformers: Age Of Extinction (which drew the most ethnically diverse audience) all attracted majority male audiences. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 showed the strongest female attendance of the top 5 films, with 57% of the film’s box office revenue coming from women.

Let’s try to sum everything up.

Compared to the previous year, in 2014 the Asian gross box office increase has offset the decline in US/Canada and Europe resulting in a slight global overall growth. Furthermore, there are now more screens, more concentrated in multiplexes and more digital, and more films were released theatrically, despite domestically considerably less tickets were sold on average, to an older audience and the frequent moviegoers (who are also tech-savvy) now totally sustain the market purchasing the majority of the tickets. The highest grossing films are rated PG-13, released also in 3D and attracted male audiences mainly, deviating slightly from the general moviegoers population. Hispanics are more likely than any other ethnic group to purchase movie tickets, while California, Texas and Florida are the most receptive states.

All in all, it looks like the movie theater is becoming, partially due to competition from other forms of entertainment primarily digital VOD, something appealing to a narrower (32% of the population did not go to the movies at all) and older target population of frequent moviegoers, with more films being released in theaters for less time, while China’s growing appetite for American movies comes at a welcome time for the industry.

There is certainly at this point a need for US distributors and exhibitors to analyze these data carefully and come up with new concepts, strategies and business models for keeping up with the demands of their actual and potential moviegoers. Starting from understanding how to adapt to the digital challenge.