Film critics do matter to box office success, say analysts

Luke Graham, News Assistant

"Fifty Shades of Grey" and "Pixels" were among the nominations this week for the Golden Raspberry Awards, nicknamed the Razzies, a tongue-in-cheek set of awards for the worst films from 2015. Despite being panned by critics, many of the nominations were box office successes, but critical opinion still matters to a film's success, say industry experts.

Universal's "Fifty Shades of Grey" has grossed more than $570 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo, despite receiving positive reviews from just 25 percent of critics on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Meanwhile Sony's "Pixels" has made more than $244 million worldwide with only 17 percent positive critical opinion. Both have been nominated for Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay by the Razzies.

Women pose for photos in front of a poster advertising the film 'Fifty Shades of Grey' on its opening day in Los Angeles on February 12, 2015.
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

While such runaway successes may suggest the opinions of reviews are irrelevant to how much business a film does, but according Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, it's actually to do with a film's genre.

"Critical opinion can have a significant impact on a film's success if it targets a specific genre that is susceptible to reviews. Namely, family films and Oscar-caliber dramas," Bock told CNBC via email.

"Horror films, comedies and a film like Fifty Shades are really impervious to reviews as the demand to see them is usually too overwhelming to be distracted by negative reviews."

A screen showing the Oscar nominees for Best Picture as announced by actor John Krasinski and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs during the Academy Awards Nominations Announcement at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California on January 14, 2016.
Best picture nominees grossed a total of $1.3B

The size of a film also matters to its success. Daniel Loria, senior overseas analyst for BoxOffice Media, explained that negative reviews have a very limited influence on bigger films which have a global audience, but can have a significant impact on independent films and documentaries.

"A positive response can shine a spotlight on a film without the marketing muscle of a major studio, and can mean the difference in drawing enough crowds to expand its number of screens in subsequent weekends," he told CNBC via email.

Fundamentally, critics do still matter to the industry.

"Critics might not make the difference in how much money the big movies make, but that doesn't mean film criticism doesn't retain an important role in the industry's ecosystem," added Loria. "Especially now, with independent distributors stepping up to make the kind of films that major studios are producing less often."

The winners of the Razzies, which were first awarded in 1981, will be announced on 27 February, the day before the Academy Awards ceremony for the best films of 2015.

Worst picture nominations

Fantastic Four

Fifty Shades of Grey

Jupiter Ascending

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2


Disclosure: Universal Pictures is a division of Comcast, the owner of NBC Universal and CNBC.

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