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15. CRITICS VS. HUMANS

May 6, 2013

In a previous post, I looked at the connection between a film’s Rotten Tomatoes score and its box office performance (reminder: there isn’t much of a connection). This time I wanted to see what kind of statistical relationship exists between what critics think of a movie and what the general public does. I used the top 100 grossing movies of 2012 as the dataset and looked at each of their Rotten Tomatoes scores – each has two scores: a critics’ score and a general website users’ score. Hence: “Critics vs. Humans”.

This is the initial result (wait for it – there’s more):

Film critics scores vs. general public scores

I was disappointed by this result, because the R^2 value of 0.51 is inconclusive: there is some kind of linear connection, but it’s not too strong. In addition, the fact that user scores are 42.8 points higher than critic scores is pretty amazing, but further weakens the connection between the two score sets.

So since that was not conclusive enough, I broke it down by box office performance – 1. over $100M and 2. $30M-$100M in domestic grosses. This was more conclusive:

Film critics scores vs. general public scores: over 100M box office

Film critics scores vs. general public scores: 30M-100M box office

 Now we see that the linear connection is much stronger for the big blockbusters (R^2 = 0.69) vs. the smaller movies (R^2 = 0.33). The average difference was still over 40 points, but for blockbusters we can at least say with a fair level of confidence that an increase of 1 point in critic scores is worth an extra 0.498 points in general-user scores.

What does this mean?

It means that the critics and the general public are much more aligned in their opinions of blockbusters. And that can mean one of two things: either critics are influenced by the higher visibility of blockbusters and skew their scores to match the general buzz about them (negative or positive); or blockbusters are much more formulaic and therefore are easier to assess in a consistent manner by using the blockbuster framework that is familiar to everyone – professionals and non-professionals.

I think both theories make sense.

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