CinemaScore is a market research firm based in Las Vegas. It surveys film audiences to rate their viewing experiences with letter grades, reports the results, and forecasts box office receipts based on the data.
CinemaScore was founded by Ed Mintz in 1982, and Mintz has presided over the company ever since. CinemaScore conducts surveys to audiences who have seen a film in theaters, asking them to rate the film and specifying what drew them to the film. Its results are published in the magazine Entertainment Weekly. CinemaScore also conducts surveys to determine audience interest in renting films on video, breaking the demographic down by age and sex and passing along information to video companies like Fox Video Corporation.
CinemaScore pollster Dede Gilmore reported the trend in 1993, "Most movies get easily a B-plus. I think people come wanting the entertainment. They have high expectations. They're more lenient with their grades. But as (moviegoers) do it more and more, they get to be stronger critics." In 1993, films that were graded with an A included Scent of a Woman, A Few Good Men, and Falling Down. Films graded with a B included Sommersby and Untamed Heart. A C-grade film for the year was Body of Evidence.
A website was launched by CinemaScore in 1999, after three years' delay in which the president sought sponsorship from magazines and video companies. Brad Peppard was president of CinemaScore Online from 1999 to 2002. The website included a database of nearly 2,000 feature films and the audiences' reactions to them. Prior to the launch, CinemaScore results had been published in Las Vegas Review-Journal and Reno Gazette-Journal. CinemaScore's expansion to the Internet included a weekly email subscription for cinephiles to keep up with reports of audience reactions.
In 1999, CinemaScore was rating approximately 140 films a year, including 98-99% of major studio releases. For each film, employees polled 400-500 moviegoers in three of CinemaScore's 15 sites, which included the cities Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Dallas, Atlanta, Tampa, Phoenix, and Coral Springs.
In the summer of 2002, CinemaScore reported that the season had the biggest collective grade since 1995. In the summer of 2000, 25 out of 32 films received either an A or B grade. 26 of the summer of 2001's 30 films got similar grades, while 32 of the summer of 2002's 34 films got similar grades, the latter being the highest ratio in a decade.
CinemaScore representatives are present in 25 large cities across North America. Each Friday, representatives in several of the cities give opening-day audiences a small survey card. The card asks for age, gender, a grade for the film between A+ and F, whether they would rent or buy the film on DVD or Blu-ray, and why they chose the film. The ratings are divided by gender and age groups (under 21, 21-34, 35 and up); film studios and other subscribers receive the data at about 11 pm Pacific Time. Although the data is proprietary, the letter grades quickly spread widely throughout the industry and via media.
An A+ grade from CinemaScore for a film typically predicts a successful box office. From 1982 to August 2011 only 52 films (about two a year) received the top grade , including seven winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture. A+ films include Titanic, Tangled, The King's Speech, A Few Good Men, Driving Miss Daisy, and Toy Story 2. As opening-night audiences are presumably more enthusiastic about a film than ordinary patrons a C grade from them is, according to the Los Angeles Times, "bad news, the equivalent of a failing grade". According to Mintz, "Movies don't rate lower than a C. A C is a failure. And it's so rare that a movie is an F. I mean, if it's an F, it shouldn't even be released." Eight films have earned the F grade, including Steven Soderbergh's 2002 remake of Solaris with George Clooney, Brad Pitt's Killing Them Softly (2012), and six horror thrillers: William Friedkin's Bug (2006) with Ashley Judd, Wolf Creek (2005), Darkness (2002), The Box (2009) with Cameron Diaz, The Devil Inside (2012), and Silent House (2012).
CinemaScore's forecasts for box-office receipts based on the surveys are, according to the Times, "surprisingly accurate" as "most of [the company's] picks . . . are in the ballpark", in 2009 correctly predicting the success of The Hangover and the failure of Land of the Lost.
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- Seiler, Andy. "Critics may love "Solaris", but moviegoers don't." USA Today, 3 December 2002.
- "CinemaScore Flunkees: Brad Pitt's 'Killing Them Softly' and 7 Other Movies That Earned an F With Audiences". The Hollywood Reporter. 2012-12-04. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
- Goldstein, Patrick. "'The Box': The movie audiences truly love to hate " Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2009.
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