Box Office Power Rankings: November 28-30, 2008

milk.jpgNo movie has ever won the Box Office Power Rankings with a 10th-place finish in overall ticket sales. It’s certainly possible, but a film has to be perfect or nearly so in every other category to pull it off.

In just 36 venues, Gus Van Sant’s Milk actually was perfect in every other category — tops in per-theater average and in both critical measures. And the bio-pic about gay-rights icon Harvey Milk still lost.

Put simply, when you start by losing nine points off the maximum 40 at the outset, you need some help to come out on top, and Milk didn’t get much. Four Christmases beat Bolt in total weekend box office, and it and Twilight had better per-theater performances, but no movie got between the Disney cartoon and Sean Penn on the critical measures.

So the dog won.

Box Office Power Rankings: November 28-30, 2008
Box Office RanksCritics’ Ranks
RankMovieLast WeekGrossPer TheaterRotten TomatoesMetacriticTotal
1Bolt19 ($26.6M)7 ($7.3K)9 (84)9 (68)34
2Milk-1 ($1.5M)10 ($40.4K)10 (94)10 (85)31
3Quantum Of Solace27 ($18.8M)5 ($5.4K)7 (66)6 (58)25
4Twilight48 ($26.3M)8 ($7.7K)3 (44)4 (53)23
5Four Christmases-10 ($31.1M)9 ($9.4K)1 (25)1 (41)21
5Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa55 ($14.2M)3 ($3.8K)5 (60)8 (61)21
7Australia-6 ($14.8M)6 ($5.6K)4 (51)4 (53)20
8Role Models33 ($5.3M)1 ($2.4K)8 (75)7 (59)19
9The Boy in Striped Pajamas82 ($1.7M)2 ($2.9K)6 (63)5 (55)15
10Transporter 3-4 ($12.1M)4 ($4.6K)2 (36)2 (51)12


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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