erik lundegaard

Hollywood B.O.: The Growing Link Between Box Office and Rotten Tomato Scores

Last night on RottenTomatoes.com, while checking out a slideshow ranking 2012 summer movies by RT score, I noticed how much the rankings correlated with box office. In 2008, on Slate, I argued just that. I.e., quality (as seen by RT rating) tends to equal quantity (in box office $$), particularly when you attempt to sort out variables such as viewing opportunities.

Here's the list of the summer movies of 2012, with Rotten Tomatoes ratings and rankings, but ranked by summer box office. (A red RT rating means it's fresh:  60% or more critics liked it):

RT rating RT rank BO Rank Movie Box Office Thtrs Open Close
92% 2 1 Marvel's The Avengers $617,814,000 4,349 4-May -
87% 3 2 The Dark Knight Rises $422,188,000 4,404 20-Jul -
73% 10 3 The Amazing Spider-Man $258,364,000 4,318 3-Jul -
77% 6 4 Brave $230,106,000 4,164 22-Jun -
70% 13 5 Ted $214,751,000 3,303 29-Jun -
75% 9 6 Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted $213,689,000 4,263 8-Jun -
69% 14 7 MIB 3 $178,127,919 4,248 25-May -
48% 25 8 Snow White and the Huntsman $154,920,000 3,777 1-Jun -
39% 30 9 Ice Age: Continental Drift $153,409,000 3,886 13-Jul -
73% 11 10 Prometheus $126,239,795 3,442 8-Jun -
79% 5 11 Magic Mike $112,858,102 3,120 29-Jun -
55% 20 12 The Bourne Legacy $85,500,000 3,753 10-Aug -
40% 29 13 Dark Shadows $79,727,149 3,755 11-May 16-Aug
34% 33 14 Battleship $65,233,400 3,702 18-May 2-Aug
21% 38 15 Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection $65,044,500 2,161 29-Jun -
66% 15 16 The Campaign $64,543,000 3,302 10-Aug -
58% 18 17 The Dictator $59,650,222 3,014 16-May 26-Jul
31% 34 18 Total Recall (2012) $55,263,000 3,601 3-Aug -
66% 16 19 The Expendables 2 $52,314,000 3,355 17-Aug -
53% 22 20 Savages (2012) $47,205,200 2,635 6-Jul -
73% 12 21 Hope Springs $45,000,000 2,402 8-Aug -
94% 1 22 Moonrise Kingdom $43,534,000 924 25-May -
48% 24 23 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days $42,863,000 3,401 3-Aug -
23% 35 24 What to Expect When You're Expecting $41,152,203 3,021 18-May 2-Aug
41% 28 25 Rock of Ages $38,518,613 3,470 15-Jun 16-Aug
35% 32 26 Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter $37,344,398 3,109 22-Jun -
22% 36 27 That's My Boy $36,931,089 3,030 15-Jun 22-Jul
43% 27 28 Step Up Revolution $33,709,000 2,606 27-Jul -
17% 39 29 The Watch $33,234,677 3,168 27-Jul -
87% 4 30 ParaNorman $28,274,000 3,455 17-Aug -
38% 31 31 The Odd Life of Timothy Green $27,080,000 2,598 15-Aug -
77% 7 32 Katy Perry: Part of Me $25,311,000 2,732 5-Jul -
55% 21 33 Sparkle (2012) $18,900,000 2,244 17-Aug -
21% 37 34 Chernobyl Diaries $18,119,640 2,433 25-May 19-Jul
57% 19 35 People Like Us $12,422,529 2,055 29-Jun -
52% 23 36 Seeking a Friend for the End of the World $7,078,738 1,625 22-Jun 5-Jul
75% 8 37 Premium Rush $6,300,000 2,255 24-Aug -
44% 26 38 Hit and Run $5,868,000 2,870 22-Aug -
16% 40 39 For Greater Glory $5,672,846 757 1-Jun 16-Aug
7% 42 40 Nitro Circus the Movie 3D $3,300,000 800 8-Aug -
3% 43 41 The Apparition $2,955,000 810 24-Aug -
64% 17 42 Cosmopolis $447,000 63 17-Aug -
14% 41 43 Piranha 3DD $376,512 86 1-Jun 21-Jun

Of the 43 summer movies listed, 17 were rated fresh. These include the seven highest-grossing films of the summer, and nine of the top 11. The highest-grossing film, “The Avengers,” had the second-highest RT score. The second highest-grossing film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” had the third-highest RT score.

Amazing.

Of the fresh films, the anomalies were the August releases (“Premium Rush,” “ParaNorman,” “Hope Springs,” “The Expendables 2”), which perhaps haven't had their box-office due yet; the auteur films (“Moonrise Kingdom,” “Cosmopolis”), which were distributed accordingly (i.e., parsimoniously); and “Katy Perry: Part of Me,” which, apparently, moviegoers just didn't care to see.

Of the rotten films, the true overperformers were “Snow White and the Huntsman,” which finished 8th for the summer; and “Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection,” which, as a Tyler Perry movie, is virtually critic-proof.

The other rotten films? Underperformers. “Ice Age” grossed the least of the “Ice Age” franchise, “The Bourne Legacy” grossed the least of the “Bourne” franchise, and potential tentpole films like “Battleship” and “Total Recall” folded up opening weekend.

Basically, if a movie was deemed good on RottenTomatoes, and was readily available, moviegoers went to see it. Exactly as I stated in 2008.

In fact, it's truer today than it was then. My article focused on 2007, a year in which box office was dominated by lame and generally rotten sequels such as “Spider-Man 3,” “Shrek the Third,” and the third “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. Now box office is dominated by films RT has deemed fresh.

I don't know if this is part of a trend. I don't know if moviegoers are using sites such as RT, or social media, in order to figure out—possibly at the theater—which movies to go see. Would be cool if it were true.

Or could RT critics be tailoring their reviews for summer blockbusters? “These are the popular movies and so I must judge them accordingly?” Would be a drag if that were true.

But how else to explain 69% for “MIB 3,” 66% for “The Campaign” and, back in 2007, 62% for effin' “Spider-Man 3,” one of the worst superhero movies ever made? Could it be that, just as there's carryover in box office from a good film to a bad sequel, so there's carryover in RT numbers? Critics say, “Not as good as ... but you'll have a good time ...”? That would certainly explain the 87% rating for “Dark Knight Rises,” the third highest-ranked film of the summer, which had its share of problems. As even fanboys have admitted. (HISHE: Still waiting on “How 'Ted' Should Have Ended.”)

Bottom line: If you saw “Moonrise Kingdom” and “The Avengers” this summer, you won.

The top three summer movies (2012) as ranked by Rotten Tomatoes

And the children shall lead. The top three summer 2012 movies as ranked by Rotten Tomatoes: an adult's view of kids, and kids' views of adults.


Posted at 07:43 AM on Mon. Aug 27, 2012 in category Movies - Box Office  
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