There has been extensive research[1] published on whether film critics affect the success (on box-office or otherwise) of a film.

There is however currently no clear consensus between these published academic (or: other) studies.

Overall, it appears (from the overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed, published academic studies) that: critics do not significantly affect box office.

The Feature Film Domain as a System

The Feature Film Domain as a system.

Favorable film reviews by critics may raise box office slightly, and similarly, unfavorable reviews may negatively impact rolling box office, often slightly more than the (usually minimal) `favorable critical review box-office-boost effect’.

(The data indicates that: bad/negative film reviews by critics in the media can make people tend to stay away from a film, with a more noticeable effect, than a good/positive review will encourage/convince them to go see it.)

Of much greater impact and influence are the story memes presented within the marketing (the story/characters/situations presented to the potential audience in the film poster and the film trailer, etc.)

Be honest: You Really Want To See This Movie

Be honest: deep down, You Really Want To See This Movie

When I helped to run the Newcastle Film Festival in 1996, our international guest of honor was the legendary Roger Corman, who started the film careers of: James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, and countless others. I asked Roger what areas of film he researched; he said he researched exactly which Titles, Genres and Stars would make people want to go and see a movie. (And if you note the awesome titles of Roger’s movies, this research clearly paid dividends. Roger is also the author of the excellent film industry memoir: How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime).


What is perhaps most remarkable about this StoryAlity empirical study of the Top 20 ROI Films is that:

The aggregate film quality scores/ratings awarded to them by critics (where available from Metacritic.com) and the scores awarded them by the widest and most-comprehensive sampling of Viewer Ratings to date (where available from IMDb.com) come out exactly equal at: 73%

Critics Ratings - IMDb and Metacritic

Critics Ratings of the Top 20 ROI Films – from IMDb and Metacritic (Velikovsky 2012)

Metacritic is: “The best critics’ reviews combined into a simple Metascore. Scores are out of 100.” [2] (This does not mean the best critics reviews, but rather, the best critics reviews. The reviews themselves may be unfavorable; it should also be noted that SAW only got a 46% aggregate Metacritic score, however it is still a Top 20 ROI Film.)

The Top 20 Audience Reach/Budget Films of the Last 70 Years. Data Source: The-Numbers.com. Analysis: JT Velikovsky

The Top 20 Audience Reach/Budget Films of the Last 70 Years. Data Source: The-Numbers.com. Analysis: JT Velikovsky

In other words, given the above result, Film Critics ratings – when their ratings are aggregated – appear to be an extremely-accurate barometer of public movie-going taste.

Barometer Thingy

A Fairly-Accurate Barometer

That is to say – not necessarily influencers of box office tendencies, but certainly: accurate predictors of a film’s story quality, as judged by The Field (the audience, critics, the film industry as a whole) – if the above empirical evidence is any guide.

So; Film Critics absolutely do matter.

(Though; not necessarily in the exact way that we may customarily think.)

"Yup - it's officially a turkey, ma'am."

“Yup – it’s officially a turkey, ma’am.”

…Comments welcome.


JT Velikovsky

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/



[1] McKenzie, J (2012), ‘The Economics of Movies: A Literature Survey’, Journal of Economic Surveys, Vol 26:1, pp.42-70.

From the comprehensive literature review: `The Economics Of Movies’ – McKenzie, J (2012), University of Sydney – some key research papers on whether movie critics affect the success of a film include:

Basuroy, S., Chatterjee, S. and Ravid, S.A. (2003), ‘How Critical are Critical Reviews? The Box Office Effects of Film Critics, Star Power, and Budgets’, Journal of Marketing67, 103-117.

Eliashberg, J. and Shugan, S. (1997), ‘Film critics: Influencers or predictors?’, Journal of Marketing61(2), 68-78.

Gemser, G., Van Oostrum, M. and Leenders, M. (2007), ‘The Impact of Film Reviews on the Box Office Performance of Art House versus Mainstream Motion Pictures’, Journal of Cultural Economics31, 43-63.

Holbrook, M. (1999), ‘Popular Appeal Versus Expert Judgements of Motion Pictures’, Journal of Consumer Research26, 144-155.

Moul, C. (2007), ‘Measuring Word-of-mouth’s Impact on Theatrical Movie Admissions’, Journal of Economics & Management Strategy16(4), 859-892.

Prag, J. and Casavant, J.(1994), ‘An Empirical Study of the Determinants of Revenue and Marketing Expenditures in the Motion Picture Industry’, Journal of Cultural Economics18(3), 217-235.

Ravid, S. A., Wald, J. and Basuroy, S. (2006), ‘Distributors and Film Critics: Does it take Two to Tango?’, Journal of Cultural Economics30, 201-218.

Reinstein, D. and Snyder, C. (2005), ‘The Influence of Expert Reviews on Consumer Demand for Experience Goods: A Case Study of Movie Critics’, The Journal of Industrial Economics103(1), 27-51.

* Where available; not all Top 20 ROI Films are on both IMDb and Metacritic.

[2] http://www.metacritic.com/

For more articles on film economics, see the excellent and comprehensive literature review: `McKenzie, J 2012, ‘The Economics of Movies: A Literature Survey’, Journal of Economic Surveys, Vol 26:1, pp.42-70.

2 thoughts on “StoryAlity #62 – Do Film Critics Matter, For Movie Success?

  1. Pingback: StoryAlity #15: The `Screenwriting Convention’ – Defects of the present view | StoryAlity

  2. Pingback: StoryAlity#157 – Opening Shots of the Top 20 RoI Movies | StoryAlity

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