As a follow-up to a post on movie box office performance, I grouped films from 2005 by their respective genres to see if criticism became more useful this way. Or at least I tried to group them by genre. Nearly every movie is billed as belonging to multiple genres. How do you classify The Chronicles of Narnia? As adventure, drama, science fiction, for children, film adaptation, or something else? How irritating!
I shouldn't complain, though. In trying not to neglect a reader's possible interest, I'm pretty liberal with how I label each post.
Arbitrariness is unavoidable in categorizing exclusively. I had to give my best effort based on description, word of mouth, and the trailer/cover presentation. If a movie was geared toward children, it was assigned to the "kids" category. The greatest challenge is in choosing romance or comedy, as the former rarely comes without the latter. Anything that struck me as something I'd never see unless coerced by my better half is classified as romance.
In a previous post delving into movie revenues and 'expert' criticism, I found almost no relationship between the two. A far better predictor is found by simply looking at how much was spent on a movie. Steve Sailer, who plays a movie critic when he's not revealing a surefire strategy for Republican political dominance or explaining the most significant obstacles to functioning liberalism in the Middle East, wrote:
There is a fair amount of agreement between critics and the public on movies within various classes: e.g., that Saving Private Ryan was better than Flags of Our Fathers, or that Gladiator was better than Alexander. Movies tend to "work" or not work, rather like a good band within a musical genre is pretty clearly better than a bad band.Steve's comment is borne out for the most part--critics do as well as better by genre, except for horror (which they despise) and romance (which, not surprisingly, they just don't seem to get). Criticism and cynicism are often mistakenly thought to be synonyms, and this provides some justification for that confusion, as these genres are the two most susceptible to it. In action and science fiction, they do very well (.55 and .59 r-values, respectively). The disdain for horror extends across the board, as it received the lowest average score of all of the genres considered. For drama and childrens' movies, they perform about as well as movies at large.
Drama films are most likely to be heavily politically or culturally ideological, which is probably why critics don't do so well in this serious genre. It's similarly a tough one for the general public, as the characters and the actions they take are often judged in many gradations, open to more interpretation than say, concluding that Scar is a bad dude.
Fat Knowledge, in wondering how the general public fared compared to the critics, pointed me to Yahoo, which constructs an average user score based on thousands of online ratings. The folks obliterate the critics. Rotten Tomatoes' critic scores, the most reliable relative to box office receipts of the different services looked at, correlate with revenue at .295 to the Yahoo users' .415.
While the critics do a little better by genre than by all movies in general, Yahoo users beat the critics in every genre, excepting action and science fiction, by slim margins. Romance is the most glaring. Critic scores and box office performance correlate at a meaningless .06 to users' .77. That blossoming could never happen in real life! But two cowboys... Horror was similarly divergent. Apparently stuffy critics cannot degrade themselves enough to review horror movies with any seriousness--they all belong in the garbage bin!
The genre-to-revenue relationships (r-values) for professional critics, Yahoo users:
Action: .55, .48
Comedy: .41, .58
Drama: .28, .38
Horror: .09, .61
Kids: .27, .79
Romance: .06, .77
Sci-Fi: .59, .55
Thriller: .31, .42
Simply put, if you want to know how a movie will do, ask the moviegoing public that will go to see it. Not only do the movie-maven plebians better than the putative experts at predicting actual box office performance, they're a lot more stable across the board, always providing at least a moderate amount of insight. Of course, uppity critics would hate to be amalgamated as a group, so unique are their individual opinions! Find a critic that you feel to be insightful, and his criticism becomes valuable.
The data, via Swivel, is available here.