CinemaScore
Company typePrivate
IndustryMarketing research
Founded1979; 45 years ago (1979)
FounderEd Mintz
Headquarters,
U.S.
ProductsMovies ratings
Websitecinemascore.com

CinemaScore is a market research firm based in Las Vegas. It surveys film audiences to rate their viewing experiences with letter grades, reports the results, and forecasts box office receipts from the data.

Background

Ed Mintz founded CinemaScore in 1979 after disliking The Cheap Detective despite being a fan of Neil Simon, and hearing another disappointed attendee wanting to hear the opinions of ordinary people instead of critics. A Yom Kippur donation card with tabs inspired the survey cards given to audience members.[1] The company conducts surveys to audiences who have seen a film in theaters, asking them to rate the film and specifying what drew them to the film. Its results are published in Entertainment Weekly. CinemaScore also conducts surveys to determine audience interest in renting films on video, breaking the demographic down by age and sex and passing along information to video companies such as Fox Video Corporation.[2]

CinemaScore pollster Dede Gilmore reported the trend in 1993, "Most movies get easily a B-plus. I think people come wanting the entertainment. They have high expectations. They're more lenient with their grades. But as (moviegoers) do it more and more, they get to be stronger critics". In 1993, films that were graded with an A included Scent of a Woman, A Few Good Men and Falling Down. Films graded with a B included Sommersby and Untamed Heart. A C-grade film for the year was Body of Evidence.[2]

CinemaScore at first reported its findings to consumers, including a newspaper column and a radio show. After 20th Century Fox approached the company in 1989, it began selling the data to studios instead.[1] A website was launched by CinemaScore in 1999,[3] after three years' delay in which the president sought sponsorship from magazines and video companies. Brad Peppard was president of CinemaScore Online from 1999 to 2002.[4] The website included a database of nearly 2,000 feature films and the audiences' reactions to them. Prior to the launch, CinemaScore results had been published in Las Vegas Review-Journal and Reno Gazette-Journal. CinemaScore's expansion to the Internet included a weekly email subscription for cinephiles to keep up with reports of audience reactions.[5]

In 1999, CinemaScore was rating approximately 140 films a year, including 98–99% of major studio releases. For each film, employees polled 400–500 moviegoers in three of CinemaScore's 15 sites, which included the cities Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Dallas, Atlanta, Tampa, Phoenix, and Coral Springs.[5]

In the summer of 2002, CinemaScore reported that the season had the biggest collective grade since 1995. In the summer of 2000, 25 out of 32 films received either an A or B grade. Twenty-six of the summer of 2001's 30 films got similar grades, while 32 of the summer of 2002's 34 films got similar grades, the latter being the highest ratio in a decade.[6]

Since July 2014, CinemaScore reports its results also on Twitter.[7]

Usually, to maintain comparable sample sizes, only films that open in more than 1,500 screens are polled and reported on CinemaScore's website and social media. The distributor of a film that opens in fewer screens can also contract with CinemaScore for a private survey, whose result would be disclosed only to the client.[8] Some of these privately-contracted surveys' results have nevertheless been publicly touted, such as the "A+" ratings for films including Courageous and A Question of Faith (both released by faith-based distributer Pure Flix Entertainment).

Rating

A CinemaScore survey card

CinemaScore describes itself as "the industry leader in measuring movie appeal".[9] There are 35 to 45 teams of CinemaScore representatives present in 25 large cities across North America. Each Friday, representatives in five randomly chosen cities give opening-day audiences a small survey card.[10][11][12] The card asks for age, gender, a grade for the film ("A", "B", "C", "D" or "F"), whether they would rent or buy the film on DVD or Blu-ray, why they chose the film and whether or not they felt the film lined up with its marketing.[11] CinemaScore typically receives about 400 cards per film;[13] the company estimates a 65% response rate and 6% margin of error.[12]

An overall grade of "A+" and "F" is calculated as the average of the grades given by responders. In this case, grades other than "F" are qualified with a plus (high end), minus (low end) or neither (middle). The ratings are divided by gender and age groups (under 21, 21–34, 35 and up).[5] Film studios and other subscribers receive the data at about 11 pm Pacific Time. CinemaScore publishes letter grades to the public on social media and, although the detailed data is proprietary, the grades become widely shared in the media and the industry. Subsequent advertisements for highly ranked films often cite their CinemaScore grades.[11][13][12]

As opening-night audiences are presumably more enthusiastic about a film than ordinary patrons, a "C" grade from them is – according to the Los Angeles Times – "bad news, the equivalent of a failing grade".[11] According to Ed Mintz, "A's generally are good, B's generally are shaky, and C's are terrible. D's and F's, they shouldn't have made the movie, or they promoted it funny and the absolute wrong crowd got into it". Horror films consistently score lower; The Conjuring's "A−" was the first time a horror film scored better than "B+". CinemaScore's Harold Mintz said that "An F in a horror film is equivalent to a B− in a comedy".[14]

An "A+" typically predicts a successful box office. From 1982 to August 2011, only 52 films (about two a year) received the top grade, including seven Academy Award for Best Picture winners.[10] From 2000 to January 2020, there were 53 movies with "A+".[15][16] As of July 15, 2020, about 90 films have received "A+".

From 2004 to 2014, those rated "A+" and "A" had multiples of 4.8 and 3.6, respectively, while C-rated films' total revenue was 2.5 times their opening weekend.[12] Ed Mintz cited Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Cruise as the "two stars, it doesn't matter how bad the film is, they can pull (the projections) up".[1] (DiCaprio's Shutter Island had a 3.1 revenue multiple despite a "C+" grade, and Cruise's Vanilla Sky had a 4 multiple with a "D" grade.)[12]

As of 2020, 22 films have received an "F" grade.[17][3][18][19][20] Vulture wrote that besides horror,[14]

Another type of movie features prominently on the list: let's call it "Misleading Auteurism". These are movies made by prominent, often Oscar-nominated directors that investigate risky and controversial subject matters and receive both praise and pans. But because of how the movie industry works — the name of a director alone not being enough to get most people to go see something — they tend to be marketed as more straight-ahead genre films, resulting in a whole bunch of misled and pissed-off audience members.

Vulture cited as examples of such F-graded films Steven Soderbergh's Solaris with George Clooney, Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly with Brad Pitt, and Darren Aronofsky's mother! with Jennifer Lawrence.[14]

In an essay for The Hollywood Reporter, Martin Scorsese strongly criticized this type of approach by writing: "The brutal judgmentalism that has made opening-weekend grosses into a bloodthirsty spectator sport seems to have encouraged an even more brutal approach to film reviewing. I'm talking about market research firms like CinemaScore [...]. They have everything to do with the movie business and absolutely nothing to do with either the creation or the intelligent viewing of film. The filmmaker is reduced to a content manufacturer and the viewer to an unadventurous consumer."[21] Mintz rejected being lumped in with Rotten Tomatoes, and defended their methodology of polling select audiences on the opening night, to see if the film meets the expectations of the people who most want to see it, and further defended the accuracy of their data and the correlation to box office results.[22]

CinemaScore's forecasts for box-office receipts based on the surveys are, according to the Los Angeles Times, "surprisingly accurate" as "most of [the company's] picks...are in the ballpark", in 2009 correctly predicting the success of The Hangover and the failure of Land of the Lost.[11] Hollywood executives are divided on CinemaScore's accuracy. One told Deadline Hollywood "It's not always right, but it's a pretty good indicator. I rely on it", while another said that competitor PostTrak was "much better...more thorough and in-depth".[12][23]

List of "A+" films

No. Title Director Year
1 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial[10][16] Steven Spielberg 1982
2 Gandhi[10][16] Richard Attenborough
3 Rocky III[10][16] Sylvester Stallone
4 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home[10][16] Leonard Nimoy 1986
5 The Princess Bride[10] Rob Reiner 1987
6 Die Hard[10] John McTiernan 1988
7 Dead Poets Society[10] Peter Weir 1989
8 Driving Miss Daisy[10] Bruce Beresford
9 A Dry White Season[10] Euzhan Palcy
10 Lean on Me[10] John G. Avildsen
11 Lethal Weapon 2[10][16] Richard Donner
12 When Harry Met Sally...[10][16] Rob Reiner
13 Dances with Wolves[10][16] Kevin Costner 1990
14 Beauty and the Beast[10][16] 1991
15 Terminator 2: Judgment Day[10][16] James Cameron
16 Aladdin[10][16] 1992
17 A Few Good Men[10][16] Rob Reiner
18 The Fugitive[10][16] Andrew Davis 1993
19 Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey[10] Duwayne Dunham
20 The Joy Luck Club[10] Wayne Wang
21 Schindler's List[10] Steven Spielberg
22 Forrest Gump[10][16] Robert Zemeckis 1994
23 Iron Will[10] Charles Haid
24 The Lion King[10][16]
25 Mr. Holland's Opus[10] Stephen Herek 1995
26 Soul Food[10] George Tillman Jr. 1997
27 Star Wars (1997 re-release)[10][16] George Lucas
28 Titanic[10] James Cameron
29 Mulan[10][16] 1998
30 Music of the Heart[10] Wes Craven 1999
31 Toy Story 2[10][16] John Lasseter
32 Finding Forrester[10][15] Gus Van Sant 2000
33 Remember the Titans[10][15] Boaz Yakin
34 Monsters, Inc.[10][15][16] Pete Docter 2001
35 Antwone Fisher[15] Denzel Washington 2002
36 Drumline[10][15] Charles Stone III
37 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets[10][15][16] Chris Columbus
38 Finding Nemo[15][16] Andrew Stanton 2003
39 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King[15][16] Peter Jackson
40 The Passion of the Christ[10][15][16] Mel Gibson 2004
41 The Incredibles[10][15][16] Brad Bird
42 The Polar Express[10][15] Robert Zemeckis
43 Ray[10][15] Taylor Hackford
44 Dreamer[10][15] John Gatins 2005
45 Diary of a Mad Black Woman[10][15] Darren Grant
46 Cinderella Man[10][15][16] Ron Howard
47 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe[10][15][16] Andrew Adamson
48 Akeelah and the Bee[10][15] Doug Atchison 2006
49 Why Did I Get Married?[10][15] Tyler Perry 2007
50 Up[10][15][16] Pete Docter 2009
51 The Blind Side[10][15] John Lee Hancock
52 The King's Speech[10][15] Tom Hooper 2010
53 Tangled[10][15][16]
54 Soul Surfer[10][15] Sean McNamara 2011
55 Courageous[15][16] Alex Kendrick
56 Dolphin Tale[15] Charles Martin Smith
57 The Help[10][15] Tate Taylor
58 The Avengers[15][16] Joss Whedon 2012
59 Argo[15][16] Ben Affleck
60 42[15][16] Brian Helgeland 2013
61 Instructions Not Included[15][16] Eugenio Derbez
62 The Best Man Holiday[15] Malcolm D. Lee
63 Frozen[15][16]
64 Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom[24] Justin Chadwick
65 Lone Survivor[15][16] Peter Berg
66 America: Imagine the World Without Her[25]
2014
67 The Good Lie[26] Philippe Falardeau
68 The Imitation Game[27] Morten Tyldum
69 Selma[15][16] Ava DuVernay
70 American Sniper[15][16] Clint Eastwood
71 War Room[16][28] Alex Kendrick 2015
72 Un gallo con muchos huevos[29]
  • Gabriel Riva Palacio Alatriste
  • Rodolfo Riva Palacio Alatriste
73 Woodlawn[15][16] Erwin Brothers
74 Miracles from Heaven[15][16] Patricia Riggen 2016
75 Queen of Katwe[15][16] Mira Nair
76 Hidden Figures[15][16][30] Theodore Melfi
77 Patriots Day[15][16][31] Peter Berg
78 The Case for Christ[32] Jon Gunn 2017
79 Girls Trip[15][16][33] Malcolm D. Lee
80 A Question of Faith[34] Kevan Otto
81 Wonder[15][35] Stephen Chbosky
82 Coco[15][16][36] Lee Unkrich
83 Black Panther[15][16][37] Ryan Coogler 2018
84 I Can Only Imagine[15][16][38] Erwin Brothers
85 Love, Simon[15][16][39] Greg Berlanti
86 Incredibles 2[15][16][40] Brad Bird
87 The Hate U Give[16][41] George Tillman Jr.
88 Green Book[16][42] Peter Farrelly
89 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse[15][16][43][44]
90 Unplanned[16][45][46]
  • Chuck Konzelman
  • Cary Solomon
2019
91 Avengers: Endgame[15][16][47]
92 The Peanut Butter Falcon[48]
  • Tyler Nilson
  • Michael Schwartz
93 Overcomer[15][49][50] Alex Kendrick
94 Harriet[15][51][52] Kasi Lemmons
95 Ford v Ferrari[15][53][54] James Mangold
96 Just Mercy[15][55][56] Destin Daniel Cretton
97 Summer of Soul[57] Questlove 2021
98 Show Me the Father[58] Rick Altizer
99 Spider-Man: No Way Home[59] Jon Watts
100 Sing 2[60] Garth Jennings
101 American Underdog Erwin Brothers
102 Top Gun: Maverick[61] Joseph Kosinski 2022
103 The Woman King[62] Gina Prince-Bythewood
104 Till[63] Chinonye Chukwu
105 Jesus Revolution[64] Jon Erwin
Brent McCorkle
2023
106 Sound of Freedom Alejandro Monteverde
107 Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour[65] Sam Wrench
108 Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé[66] Beyoncé
109 Ordinary Angels Jon Gunn 2024

As of 2023, only Jon Erwin has made the list four times: thrice with his brother (2015, 2018, and 2021) and once with Brent McCorkle (2023). Three directors have made the list three times: Rob Reiner (1987, 1989, 1992), Alex Kendrick (2011, 2015, 2019), and Andrew Erwin (2015, 2018, 2021). The following directors have appeared on the list twice: Steven Spielberg (1982, 1993), James Cameron (1991, 1997), Robert Zemeckis (1994, 2004), Pete Docter (2001, 2009), Malcolm D. Lee (2013, 2017), Peter Berg (2013, 2016), Brad Bird (2004, 2018), George Tillman Jr. (1997, 2018), and Jon Gunn (2017, 2024).

List of "F" films

No. Title Director Year
1 Bolero[67][68][69] John Derek 1984
2 Eye of the Beholder[3][14][18][19][20] Stephan Elliott 1999
3 Dr. T and the Women[3][14][18][19][20] Robert Altman 2000
4 Lost Souls[3][14][18][19][20] Janusz Kamiński
5 Lucky Numbers[14][3][18][19][20] Nora Ephron
6 Darkness[3][14][18][19][20] Jaume Balagueró 2002
7 Fear Dot Com[3][14][18][19][20] William Malone
8 Solaris[3][14][18][19][20] Steven Soderbergh
9 In the Cut[3][14][18][19][20] Jane Campion 2003
10 Alone in the Dark[3][14][18][19][20] Uwe Boll 2005
11 Wolf Creek[3][14][18][19][20] Greg McLean
12 Bug[3][14][18][19][20] William Friedkin 2006
13 The Wicker Man[3][14][18][19][20] Neil LaBute
14 I Know Who Killed Me[3][14][18][19][20] Chris Sivertson 2007
15 Disaster Movie[3][14][18][19][20] Jason Friedberg
Aaron Seltzer
2008
16 The Box[3][14][18][19][20] Richard Kelly 2009
17 Silent House[3][14][18][19][20] Chris Kentis
Laura Lau
2011
18 Killing Them Softly[3][14][18][19][20] Andrew Dominik 2012
19 The Devil Inside[3][14][18][19][20] William Brent Bell
20 mother![3][14][18][19][20][70] Darren Aronofsky 2017
21 The Grudge[3][18][19][20][71] Nicolas Pesce 2020
22 The Turning[3][18][19][20][72] Floria Sigismondi

References

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