Box Office Power Rankings: February 15-18, 2008

In this week’s edition of the Box Office Power Rankings, I was planning to address critical disconnect — not between arbiters and their audiences but between critics and themselves.

Specifically, I was curious about movies with which there is a large gap between Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores. In this week’s rankings, the extremes were Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour (Rotten Tomatoes: 85; Metacritic: 59) and Step Up 2 the Streets (Rotten Tomatoes: 25; Metacritic: 51).

But the gap between the two scores in general can be explained by noting that Metacritic tends toward the center. The four movies in this week’s top 10 with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 70 or above each had lower Metacritic scores, and the five movies with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 37 or lower all had higher Metacritic scores. (The Bucket List boasted regularity — 42 in both measures.)

This makes perfect sense, as a three-star review is counted as fully positive by Rotten Tomatoes but only as a 75 (out of 100) by Metacritic.

As for the size of the gaps, I theorize that they’ll be particularly large with mediocre or trend-chasing movies on which there’s a basic critical consensus. Hence, critics have in final judgment liked Hannah Montana and disliked Step Up 2 the Streets, even though they’re both in the 50s in Metacritic.

Incidentally, Box Office Power Rankings winners have averaged 82.3 on Rotten Tomatoes and 74.2 on Metacritic. This week’s winner, The Spiderwick Chronicles, earned 79 and 62, respectively.

Over the 32 weeks we’ve been calculating the rankings, the top 10 movies have averaged 50.7 on Rotten Tomatoes and 55.7 on Metacritic.

Box Office Power Rankings: February 15-18, 2008
(Rank) Movie (last week; box office, per-theater, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic: total)
(1) The Spiderwick Chronicles (-; 9, 8, 8, 9: 34)
(2) Juno (2; 4, 3, 10, 10: 27)
(3) Step Up 2 the Streets (-; 8, 9, 3, 6: 26)
(3) Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour (1; 2, 7, 9, 8: 26)
(3) Definitely, Maybe (-; 6, 6, 7, 7: 26)
(6) Jumper (-; 10, 10, 2, 2: 24)
(7) Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (3; 5, 4, 4, 5: 18)
(8) Fool’s Gold (5; 7, 5, 1, 1: 14)
(8) The Bucket List (8; 3, 2, 6, 3: 14)
(10) 27 Dresses (6; 1, 1, 5, 4: 11)

Methodology

Culture Snob’s Box Office Power Rankings balance box office and critical reception to create a better measure of a movie’s overall performance against its peers.

The weekly rankings cover the 10 top-grossing movies in the United States for the previous weekend. We assign equal weight to box office and critical opinion, with each having two components. The measures are: box-office gross, per-theater average, Rotten Tomatoes score, and Metacritic score.

Why those four? Box-office gross basically measures the number of people who saw a movie in a given weekend. Per-theater average corrects for blockbuster-wannabes that flood the market with prints, and gives limited-release movies a fighting chance. Rotten Tomatoes measures critical opinion in a binary way. And Metacritic gives a better sense of critics’ enthusiasm (or bile) for a movie.

For each of the four measures, the movies are ranked and assigned points (10 for the best performer, one for the worst). Finally, those points are added up, with a maximum score of 40 and a minimum score of four.

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