Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Summer Blockbuster review

Summertime rhymes with school break, fireworks, BBQ, but just as inseparable are Hollywood's big blockbusters. Early 2015, even as early as late 2014 we had teasers and trailers for the big upcoming wave of big budget movies, many of which sequels to blockbuster sagas. Terminator 5, Jurassic Park 4 anyone?

Starting early summer I pulled daily stats for 20 of the most anticipated summer movies of 2015, and before we enter the new year, let's see how they did.

Rating Evolution

In these two earlier posts I looked at the evolution IMDB scores after movies' releases, as well as after Game of Thrones episodes aired. In both cases we observed a trend in rating decrease as time went by, although this phenomenon was much more sudden for TV episodes (a few days) than for movies (multiple weeks / months).

Here's the trend for our 20 blockbusters, all aligned according to release date, and titles ordered according to final rating:

Again, we observe the same declining trend, although the asymptote seems to be reached much sooner than for the average movie (earlier analysis).

Straight Outta Compton clearly emerges as the best-rated movie of the summer although it did not benefit from as much early marketing as most of its competitors. Straight Outta Compton also distinguishes itself from the other movies in another way. While all movies dropped an average of 0.3 rating points between release date and latest reading (not as dramatic as the 0.6 drop observed across a wider range of movies in the previous analysis already mentioned, as if summer blockbuster movies tend to decrease less and stabilize faster), Straight Outta Compton actually improved its rating by 0.1 (this is not entirely obvious from the graph, but the movie had a rating of 8.0 on its release date, jumped to 8.4 the next day, and slowly decreased to 8.1). Only two other movies saw their ratings increase, Trainwreck from 6.2 to 6.5 and Pixels from 4.8 to 5.7, the latter increase while quite spectacular still falls way short from making the movie a must-see, despite the insane amounts spent on marketing. As you might have noticed from my posts, my second hobby is basketball, and I remember this summer when not a day would go by without seeing an ad for Pixels on TV or on websites where NBA stars battled monsters from 1970 arcade games.

Which brings us to the next question: did budget have any effect on how well the movies did, either from a sales or rating perspective? Of course we are very far from establishing a causal model here so we will have to satisfy ourselves with simple correlations across five metrics of interest: IMDB rating, number of IMDB voters, movie budget, gross US sales and Metascore (aggregated score from well-established critics).

I would have expected the highest correlation to be between IMDB rating and Metascore (based on another analysis I did comparing the different rating methodologies). However, it came at second place (0.73) and I honestly had not anticipated the top correlation (0.87) between budget value and number of IMDB voters. Of course we can't read too much into this correlation that could be completely spurious, but it might be worth confirming again later with a larger sample. If I had to give a rough interpretation though, I would say that a movie's marketing spend is probably highly positively correlated with the movie's budget. So the higher the budget, the higher marketing spend and the stronger 'presence of mind' this will have on users who will be more likely to remember to rate the movie. Remember my example of all the Pixels ads? I didn't see the movie, but if I had, those ads might have eventually prompted me to rate the movie independently of how good it was, especially if those ads appeared online or even on IMDB itself.

But while we wait for that follow-up analysis, we can all start looking at the trailers for the most anticipated movies of next year, sequels and reboots leading the way once again: X-Men, Star Trek, Captain America, Independence Day...

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