Box Office Power Rankings: October 17-19, 2008

stone-w.jpgOliver Stone’s W. didn’t win this week’s Box Office Power Rankings, but it did better in every measure than I expected: $10.5 million in box office (fourth place), $5,175 per theater (third), 55 on Rotten Tomatoes (fourth), 56 on Metacritic (fourth). Consistency can pay off, and all that led to a second-place overall finish, behind the just-ahead-in-every-category The Secret Life of Bees (third, first, second, third).

It’s curious that the critical reception to W. has been so ... bland. Nobody hated it, and only Roger Ebert gave it four stars. If we do the Olympics-judging thing to its Metacritc scores by lopping off the top and bottom three, we get a range in the remaining 29 scores of 40 to 80 — from two to four stars on a five-star scale. Has a filmmaker who made a career out of polarizing critics and viewers become tentative and safe?

This is particularly strange given the opportunities for rage in his last two movies. World Trade Center’s Metacritic range was 50 to 90 if you remove the three reviews at the extremities.

Those are not the numbers of somebody taking chances. Those are not the numbers of the Oliver Stone of JFK and Natural Born Killers.

And that’s fine. Stone also made Nixon with the primary interest of empathy. It’s just surprising that he chose that road when all the signs were surely pointing him in a different direction.

Box Office Power Rankings: October 17-19, 2008
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1The Secret Life of Bees-8 ($10.5M)10 ($6.6K)9 (57)8 (57)35
2W.-7 ($10.5M)8 ($5.2K)7 (55)7 (56)29
3Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist23 ($3.7M)4 ($1.6K)10 (72)10 (64)27
4Body of Lies35 ($6.1M)6 ($2.2K)6 (49)9 (58)26
5Beverly Hills Chihuahua49 ($11.4M)7 ($3.5K)4 (41)3 (41)23
6Quarantine14 ($3.7M)3 ($1.5K)9 (57)6 (53)22
7Max Payne-10 ($17.6M)9 ($5.2K)1 (20)1 (30)21
8Eagle Eye86 ($7.0M)5 ($2.1K)2 (29)4 (43)17
9Sex Drive-2 ($3.6M)2 ($1.5K)5 (43)5 (48)14
10Nights in Rodanthe101 ($2.7M)1 ($1.3K)3 (30)2 (39)7


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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