The Impact Of Film Critics
The Impact Of Film Critics
Kevin Maynard (Film Critic and Entertainment Writer, Special to USA Today, Variety) gives expert video advice on: How do film reviews impact a film's box-office success?; Do film critics impact the kinds of films that get made?; What role do film festivals play for the film reviewer? and more...
What is "box office gross"?
The box office gross is money raised by ticket sales. It's what a movie makes. It used to be that studios would really pay attention to the first two weeks of a movie's opening. That's when a movie gets a chance to make the most money. Occasionally you have a sleeper movie that gets box office legs. Those kind of movies are smaller movies that are sometimes platforming; they release them in more and more theaters, they have a distribution campaign, so that more people are seeing them and it's expanding to more theaters and more demand is created. People used to just pay attention to the first two weeks at the box office, but now that's not true. You have those sleeper movies and you also have DVD. Movies have an incredible life on DVD and that will really speak to how well the movie did overall, too. It's afterlife on the DVD market.
What is film release "platforming"?
Platforming is for smaller movies. X-Men is not a movie that will platform. X-Men is a movie that will go into a wide release, which means that it will open in the maximum amount of theatres that they can get their hands on, because people have a desire to see this movie. It's big. It's mainstream. It's what people are after. Smaller movies will platform. Movies released by Miramax, by Fox Searchlight, or by Focus Features will platform. They will usually start in New York and LA, then expand to other markets which are just other cities; New York, LA, Chicago, San Francisco. Then New York, LA, Chicago San Francisco, Boston, Baltimore, and so on until it's kind of in as broad a range of theatre as possible; sometimes even in coming to small theatres in local areas too, if the movie catches on.
How do film reviews impact a film's box-office success?
Sometimes critics' reviews don't really matter to box-office performance, and sometimes they really do matter. A good example is a known entity, a movie like a 'Mission Impossible', does not live or die by the critical reviews. It lives and dies by what people are still interested in a franchise. Franchises are movies that have built in sequels and it becomes a product, so people want to see it regardless of reviews. They don't care what the critics think. However, critical reviews might effect it in the long term: it might not have the same longevity if people think this sequel really sucked, but chances are people are going to go seek out that product anyway.
Do reviews have more impact on certain kinds of films?
Film reviews do have more of an impact on certain types of movies. Independent movies - movies that are a little bit under the radar - can really rise out of the ashes with critical acclaim. They get that kind of attention and suddenly they build interest and people say, "Hey, this is a smart alternative to the big movies out there. I want to see this movie. I read that so-and-so like it, I like what he has to say. This sounds great, I'm going to check it out."
Do film critics impact the kinds of films that get made?
We are dealing with two very different things, art and commerce, when discussing whether critics influence the kind of movies that get made. Movies are going to be made whether critics want them or not. I can't imagine there were that many critics salivating for a 'Fantastic Four 2'. They didn't seem to really like the first one, but it doesn't matter. Hollywood is an industry, an industry that wants to make money, that makes big movies to make big money. The other side of that is that studios also want some prestige. They try to release movies for the Oscar season that are great. You end up getting a fall season where arguably all the best movies are suddenly sandwiched into a period of two and half to three months. That's the classy stuff. Studios want critics to pay attention to movies, but critics don't really dictate what movies are made.
How do film reviews impact awards season?
Film critics fuel award season. There are so many film critic associations, and these film critics have all been to a myriad of film festivals, like Toronto, Sundance, Cannes, etc. These film critics are people who you know actually get together and talk about what movies they think are really great, such as what undersea movie is worth getting attention. Sometimes, film critic associations champion movies because they know they're great. Critics know that film might not have a snowball's chance in hell of actually getting an Oscar nomination. With Ryan Gosling's performance in 'Half Nelson', I think it would have been largely overlooked if film critic associations hadn't early on said that it was an interesting, small movie with a great performance, and people need to see it. It got an Oscar nomination.
What role do film festivals play for the film reviewer?
Festivals are a chance for film reviewers to gather information, to really track what's out there, and to get an early sense of what movies are really good. Their word of mouth can help a movie get distribution. We're dealing with movies that are outside the studio system, so critics can really help sell a movie with their buzz. These movies then get bought and can get campaigns and award nominations. Critics are essential to film festivals; they go there to select the best of the best.