Saturday, 9 August 2014

The movie business is weird. Or, why do we do it this way?

Movies are bizarre.

No really. They are. I was looking back at some recent movie releases and I had some thoughts about how we look at movies. More specifically, how we decide whether or not a movie is a hit.

When a movie is released, there are reviews by actual movie reviewers, fan reaction upon just having seen it (something called Cinemascore) and the all important box office numbers. It's this aspect, the numbers game, that got me thinking the other day.

When do we all collectively agree that a movie, once released, is a hit? Is it based on the critical reviews of the movie? No, not really. Is it based on the fan reaction? Nope. What makes or breaks a movie is the amount of money that movie makes. That's it. And, to me, that seems really weird.

Whenever we see a top 10 or top 100 list of most successful movies of all time, it's ALWAYS ranked in total gross dollar amount. Sometimes you'll see a list in something called "Adjusted Dollars" which just means the total gross has had inflation factored in. Do you know what you don't see as far as ranking these movies goes? 

The number of tickets sold. Or, in other words, the number of people that actually went to see it.

You have to dig pretty deep to find statistics on how many seats were actually sold for a movie. How many folks shoveled out their hard earned moolah to take their favourite sweetheart to see the latest Die Hard movie? I have no idea, but I can tell you exactly, and I mean EXACTLY, how much money that movie made.

Does this seem odd to anyone else? Or is it just me? Wait, gets odder.

The total gross dollars a movie pulls in at the box office still doesn't actually decide whether or not a movie is a hit. There's still one overriding factor that should really only matter to the studio that's making the movie but has somehow been adopted by the rest of us as well.


Let me give you an example. Here's a movie that's been universally hailed as one of the biggest box office flops of all time:

Now here's a movie that was considered a huge runaway success just this summer:

Would you like to know how much each of these movies grossed worldwide?

The Lone Ranger: $260,502,115
The Fault in Our Stars: $263,444,846

That's right. The runaway smash hit of the summer made a mere $3 million more than one of the biggest box office flops since forever. What that means is, when it comes down to butts in seats, just as many people went to the theatre to see The Lone Ranger as did to see The Fault in Our Stars. So why is one considered a flop and the other a hit? I'll say it again;


The Lone Ranger cost $215 million to make. The Fault in Our Stars only cost $12 million to make. So, from a studio perspective, I can see why they would think one was a success and one was a failure. But why do the rest of us adopt this mentality as well? 

Think about it for a second. Almost exactly as many of us (different demographics notwithstanding) went to see each of these movies. Do we, as the movie going public, actually care how much profit a film makes? We're certainly not seeing any of that money. So why is it if you ask someone about these two movies, most of them will tell you that one was a huge flop and the other a huge hit?

Maybe it really is just me. I understand the economics behind it. I just don't get why most of us do it this way.

1 comment:

  1. I'd love it if the weekly top 10, 20 etc were ordered by ticket sales (where can I find those stats?) And then have those constantly compared to movies 10, 20, 30 years ago. It would really present a more accurate picture of what's happening in our movie theaters. I expect the industry as a whole though just prefers to shout about the latest 'record' breaking opening film, even though actual ticket sales are way lower than the record breaking films decades ago.