Box Office Power Rankings: October 10-12, 2008

quarantine.jpgQuarantine won this week’s Box Office Power Rankings, and my first thought was that, with Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores of 61 and 54, respectively, the horror flick would have done even better a few weeks ago. Sure enough, those scores would have secured an additional five points for Quarantine because of weaker competition.

That got me thinking about dumping grounds — the conventional wisdom that early in the year and after the summer movie season, Hollywood drops its unwanted product on the market just to be rid of it. I decided to try to quantify the dumping ground.

I combined the median and average Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores for each weekend’s box-office top 10 starting July 20, 2007. Because both measures use a 100-point scale, one would expect that a typical week would have an aggregate score near 200 — or 50 each for median and average on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.

Charting the dumping groundsThe accompanying chart shows that — at least over the past 15 months — the conventional wisdom holds true. The obvious valleys fall in early autumn (post-blockbusters) and late winter (post-awards bait). The noticeable peaks are in late summer and the holiday season.

The highest aggregate score recorded so far was 267.4 for the weekend beginning July 20, 2007, with six movies scoring 76 or higher on Rotten Tomatoes, led by Ratatouille, Knocked Up, and Hairspray. The nadir of 145.9 came the weekend of March 7, 2008, with six movies scoring 27 or lower on Rotten Tomatoes, including 10,000 B.C., Fool’s Gold, College Road Trip, and Jumper.

Box Office Power Rankings: October 10-12, 2008
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1Quarantine-9 ($14.2M)10 ($5.8K)7 (61)5 (54)31
2Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist16 ($6.4M)4 ($2.7K)9 (72)10 (64)29
3Body of Lies-8 ($12.9M)8 ($4.8K)5 (51)7 (58)28
4Beverly Hills Chihuahua310 ($17.5M)9 ($5.4K)3 (41)3 (41)25
4Appaloosa13 ($3.3M)3 ($2.6K)10 (75)9 (63)25
6The Duchess-2 ($3.3M)5 ($2.7K)7 (61)8 (62)22
7The Express-5 ($4.6M)1 ($1.6K)8 (64)7 (58)21
8Eagle Eye47 ($10.9M)6 ($3.0K)1 (28)4 (43)18
9Fireproof81 ($3.1M)7 ($3.6K)4 (43)1 (28)13
10Nights in Rodanthe94 ($4.5M)2 ($1.8K)2 (29)2 (39)10

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 than gross receipts alone.

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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