July 05, 2008

Russ doesn't understand criticism

More education for Russell Bates on the value of movie criticism. It's relevant to this blog because I often criticize Native-themed movies.

Shilling for the man (i.e., white studio executives), Russ usually claims that movie criticism doesn't matter. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't know what he's talking about. Here's the evidence:

Why We Need Movie Reviewers

Despite popular belief, critically acclaimed movies actually sell better.The numbers are starkest with limited-release films (fewer than 2,000 screens). Art-house films that critics loved, such as Away From Her and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, averaged $3,113 per screen, while arthouse films critics were iffy about, such as Interview and Margot at the Wedding, didn't even do half as well, averaging only $1,322 per screen. Some people are paying attention.

Percentagewise, the critic effect is less pronounced for the supposedly critic-proof blockbusters, but it's still there. On average, the "fresh" blockbusters, such as Harry Potter and I Am Legend outperform the "rotten" blockbusters, such as Wild Hogs and The Bee Movie, by more than $500 per screen. Almost any way you slice it, if a majority of critics like a movie, chances are it will do better at the box office than a similar film the majority of critics don't like. Far from being elitist, movie critics are actually a pretty good barometer of popular taste.
Comment:  Many Native-made films are the equivalent of art-house films, of course.

Since I'm only one critic, my opinions obviously don't have much effect. But collectively, the opinions of movie critics do have an effect. For those who understand mathematics, as I do, the effect is measurable.

For more on the subject, see Educating Russ About Criticism and Why Does Rob Keep Criticizing?


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
First matters first, there is a question Rob refuses to answer: if critics are so all-important, WHY are major magazines and newspapers laying off critics faster than GM is dumping Humvee makers?
Rob's spurious statistics work only because per-screen earnings are higher for low-grossing films if their screen numbers also were low. INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, per exemplum, has grossed $306,590,000 domestic to date and $413,488,249 internationally for a worldwide total of $720,078,249 since May 22. Opening weekend, however, it had grossed $100,137,249 on 4,260 screens in North America, for a per-screen average of $23,506. Looks pretty small, one screen at a time. And therein lies the supposed logic that critically-accalimed small films fare better than critically-lukewarm-received epics like INDY 4. Except that the smaller film played on maybe 85 screens and so its per-screen gross does loom large, until you compare the divisors and see how wildly differing they were.
writerfella iterates that statistics can be manipulated any way one wants, such as his old USAF squadron did in 1967. Two airmen were up for re-enlistment, one 22 and a first-termer, the other 35 and a fourth-termer. The younger man mustered out, and the 'lifer' re-upped. 4756 MMS reported to 14th AF HQ that they had a re-enlistment rate of 50%!
That kind of thinking does not constitute a rational contract...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

Unlike you, Russ, I've never refused to answer a question. The point you so foolishly omit is that you never asked this question before. Now that you've asked it, I'll answer it.

The answer is that newspapers aren't in the movie business, bright boy. A critic's effect on box-office receipts has nothing to do with the critic's effect on newspaper sales. If a critic helps boost a movie's box office, it contributes nothing to the newspaper's bottom lines. So the paper has no reason to keep the critic.

In fact, what's rendering newspaper critics obsolete is the popularity of free criticism on the Web. You know, the kind of criticism produced by critics like me. We're the ones influencing movie viewership now. The critical effect still holds; it's simply moved from the page to the screen.

Rob said...

I wish you'd learn to read, Russ. First, the statistics aren't mine. They came from a well-researched article. Perhaps you didn't realize that because you don't know how to use the Internet.

Second, the analysis didn't compare low-grossing films to high-grossing films. It compared low-grossing films that critics liked to low-grossing films that critics disliked. Within the category of low-grossing films, critically acclaimed films did noticeably better.

Incredibly, you missed the whole point of the study. Nowhere did it compare low- and high-grossing films or claim that "critically-acclaimed small films fare better than critically-lukewarm-received epics." This is an outright lie--a total fabrication of the study's conclusion.

Thanks for sharing your enlistment anecdote once again. Clearly you hope that if you keep repeating this minutia, we'll conclude that no statistical study has ever been valid. Next you'll probably try to persuade us that global warming isn't real.

In other words, you're talking like a Luddite who doesn't know jack about statistics. You can't discredit the article's study so you try to discredit the entire field of math. Too bad my BA in mathematics (cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) trumps whatever pre-school taught you about numbers.