Metacritic's 3rd Annual Movie Studio Report Card

  • Publish Date: February 6, 2012
  • Comments: ↓ 3 user comments

The others: A look at the biggest "independent" distributors

Below, we examine the other studios that released at least 7 films (with enough reviews to earn a Metascore) during the past year, in order of total box office grosses. The pie charts represent the percentages of films that were deemed by critics to be good (Metascore of 61 or above), so-so (40-60) and bad (39 or lower). The quality grades represent the overall film quality for that studio's 2011 releases, as compared to that of its peers. (Yes, we grade on a curve.) Studios are listed in alphabetical order.

Anchor Bay

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
D– 43.4 $1.6m
Rank*: 31st
Best film: Beautiful Boy 62 Worst film: The Big Bang 25

* Rank among all indie distributors.

Owned by Starz Media, Anchor Bay released a fairly dismal slate of films in 2011, with only drama Beautiful Boy (sort of an inferior, tamer version of We Need to Talk About Kevin) scoring favorable reviews from critics—and just barely. Even the Sundance audience favorite happythankyoumoreplease 45 failed to connect with professional reviewers, and only two distributors finished the year with a lower average Metascore. The studio did have one film gross over $1 million in theaters: Kill the Irishman 50.

ARC Entertainment

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
D– 44.1 n/a
Rank: n/a
Best film: Knuckle 65 Worst film: Bunraku 28

ARC also had an unimpressive 2011, though it did manage to secure positive reviews for two films, including The Way 64, Emilio Estevez's recent directorial effort (starring dad Martin Sheen).

First Run Features

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
B 62.9 $1.0m
Rank: 39th
Best film: Circo 77 Worst film: Jane's Journey 49

One of a handful of distributors to avoid releasing a bad film in 2011, indie First Run benefitted from a lineup consisting chiefly of critic-friendly documentaries. Despite all of those well-reviewed films, however, the studio's overall average score dropped nearly six points from 2010, while its box office grosses declined slightly.

Focus Features

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
A 69.4 $126.9m
Rank: 6th
Best film: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 85 Worst film: One Day 48

Art house staple Focus Features released two critically acclaimed titles in 2011, including the spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the Ewan McGregor-Christopher Plummer drama Beginners 81, propelling the distributor to the year's third-highest average Metascore. Focus also collected five Oscar nominations, tying it with the much larger Warner and Paramount (and putting it ahead of Universal and Fox combined). The underrated Hanna 65 and remake The Debt 65 were also modest hits for the studio, each grossing more than $30 million in the U.S.

Fox Searchlight

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
A– 66.5 $152.4m
Rank: 5th
Best film: The Tree of Life 85 Worst film: The Art of Getting By 36

Last year was a win win for Fox's specialty films division (which, yes, was responsible for the film Win Win 75). Not only did Fox Searchlight gross over $150 million for the fourth straight year, but it also had several major critical successes, including The Tree of Life and The Descendants 84. The latter film earned five of Fox Searchlight's eight Academy Award nominations (tying it for fifth among all studios), while the distributor's Metascore average increased for the second straight year. The Tree of Life, however, was a bit of a box office dud, and the studio lacked any real hits outside of The Descendants.

IFC (incl. Sundance Selects and IFC Midnight)

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
C+ 58.1 $17.6m
Rank: 12th
Best film: Cave of Forgotten Dreams 86 Worst film: Love, Wedding, Marriage 13

It's not surprising that IFC continues to release as many films as it does, given that it has its own movie theater and several cable networks to program. But with such a vast number of releases, it is inevitable that there will be a large number of failures scattered among the successes, and IFC deserves some credit for receiving positive reviews for over half of its films. Its best-reviewed 2011 release was also its highest-grossing (the 3D documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams), while other quality releases include the critical hit Certified Copy, terrific UK comedy The Trip, and Wim Wenders' unconventional documentary Pina (another unlikely but successful 3D film), all scoring 82. But in 2010, IFC also released more films than any other studio and managed an average Metascore above 65, so 2011 marks a fairly major quality drop-off overall for the company. (And, for some reason, the studio continues to release Human Centipede films, so there's that.)

Kino Lorber (incl. Lorber, Kino, and Alive Mind)

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
A 70.5 n/a
Rank: n/a
Best film: Poetry 89 Worst film: Crazy Wisdom 48

Kino Lorber's various brands combined to record the second-highest average Metascore in 2011, with the company receiving critical praise for 15 of its 18 releases last year. Many of those films were foreign-language imports, including the Korean drama Poetry and the Chinese drama City of Life and Death 85.


Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
D 47.8 $184.0m
Rank: 4th
Best film: Warrior 71 Worst film: Abduction 25

Almost big enough now to qualify as a major studio, Lionsgate shouldn't be confused with some of the art house distributors on this list; its films clearly target a wide audience. Still, it could do better than releasing just two decent films (Warrior and The Lincoln Lawyer 63) all year. Lionsgate also underperformed at the box office last year, with domestic receipts down over 60% compared to 2010. (For that decline, you can thank flops like its disastrous Conan the Barbarian 36 remake.) But 2012 should be better; the studio has a potentially lucrative new franchise launching this year with The Hunger Games, while a sequel to its 2010 hit The Expendables is also on the schedule.

Magnolia (incl. Magnet Releasing)

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
B– 60.5 $7.6m
Rank: 15th
Best film: 13 Assassins 87 Worst film: I Melt with You 26

Unlike in 2010, Magnolia released a couple of critical failures last year, but the studio still scored a solid average of 60.5 despite releasing so many films. The studio also boasted one of the year's most varied lineups of films, with everything from documentaries to horror films to foreign imports to art house fare. Though the company didn't make much of an impression at the box office, the Lars von Trier drama Melancholia 81 certainly impressed critics (as did 13 Assassins).

Music Box Films

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
B 60.9 $4.1m
Rank: 22nd
Best film: Mysteries of Lisbon 82 Worst film: The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch 40

The Chicago-based distributor saw its Metascore average fall by about four points last year, while also shedding $20 million in box office grosses compared to 2010. (There's a good reason for the latter, however: its unusually high total the year before was a result of releasing the Swedish-language films based on Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy.) Music Box once again managed to avoid a single red Metascore all year, though its only film to truly impress critics was Mysteries of Lisbon, originally a Portuguese TV miniseries.

Oscilloscope Pictures

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
A– 68.0 $1.4m
Rank: 36th
Best film: Meek's Cutoff 85 Worst film: Monogamy 47

In 2010, Oscilloscope earned an average Metascore of 68.0. So what does it do for an encore? Another 68.0, despite taking risks on new filmmakers (Bellflower 72), divisive iconoclasts (Meek's Cutoff), and difficult material (We Need to Talk About Kevin 71). Taking chances paid off (at least with critics); Oscilloscope finished the year with the fourth-highest average Metascore among all distributors.


Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
F 39.7 $1.8m
Rank: 30th
Best film: The Whale 64 Worst film: A Love Affair of Sorts 22

The only slate of films worse than Paladin's in 2011 was ...

Relativity Media

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
F 38.2 $228.1m
Rank: 3rd
Best film: Limitless 59 Worst film: Shark Night 3D 22

... that of Relativity Media, the only distributor on our list without a single positively-reviewed film. But what Relativity lacked in quality, it made up for in ticket sales, thanks mainly to just two films: the surprise Bradley Cooper hit Limitless, and Tarsem Singh's Immortals 46, a rare big-budget film for the distributor.

Roadside Attractions

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
B– 60.4 $28.0m
Rank: 10th
Best film: Project Nim 83 Worst film: Immigration Tango 28

After an unfocused 2010 that saw a mix of very good and very bad films, Roadside Attractions managed to boost its average Metascore by over 7 points last year, thanks to a generally improved slate that featured a pair of acclaimed documentaries (Project Nim and Thunder Soul) and the timely thriller Margin Call 76. It wasn't all good news, though; Robert Redford's historical drama The Conspirator 55 was a commercial and critical disappointment. But while the jury is still out on Albert Nobbs (which only reached most theaters last week), that film did earn a trio of Oscar nominations.

Samuel Goldwyn Films

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
D– 46.1 $6.5m
Rank: 16th
Best film: The Double Hour 72 Worst film: The Reunion 26

It was another disappointing year for Samuel Goldwyn, which basically matched its low average Metascore of 2010 and saw a 40% dip in box office receipts. The distributor couldn't even have any fun with R-rated comedy A Good Old Fashioned Orgy 44, which grossed a meager $200,000.

Sony Pictures Classics

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
A 72.9 $90.2m
Rank: 8th
Best film: A Separation 94 Worst film: Restless 47

In the three years that we have been ranking individual studios, no company has finished a year with a higher average Metascore than Sony Pictures Classics' 72.9 last year, a number that is somehow up from an already impressive 71.3 the year before. Even more impressive is that 16 of the distributor's 17 releases in 2011 received positive reviews from critics, and the one straggler—Gus Van Sant's Restless—was an ambitious failure. Five of the studio's films scored 81 or higher, including the Iranian drama A Separation (2011's best-reviewed film), Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris 81 (SPC's biggest hit last year) and the drama Take Shelter 85. By comparison, IFC is the only other distributor with as many high-scoring films last year, but that studio released over twice as many titles as Sony Classics. SPC also earned eight Oscar nominations, while earning more money than in any year since 2001.

Strand Releasing

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
A– 67.4 $971k
Rank: 42nd
Best film: The Arbor 88 Worst film: Rage 43

Talk about a rebound. The arthouse distributor failed even to impress critics in 2010, averaging a score of 53 for its 14 releases. But last year, that average shot up 14 points, and Strand collected nearly 80% more in box office receipts than it did in 2010, despite continuing to release mostly obscure films. In addition to experimental documentary The Arbor, critics especially loved Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives 87, a meditative Thai drama that was the big winner at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Summit Entertainment

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
C– 51.3 $411.6m
Rank: 1st
Best film: Source Code 74 Worst film: The Darkest Hour 16

For the third straight year, Summit out-grossed every other independent distributor, thanks mainly to yet another film in its Twilight Saga. Summit also had a hit in the sci-fi thriller Source Code and released the modestly successful dramedy 50/50 72, though other films like the Mel Gibson-starring The Beaver 60 didn't pan out, and the studio's Metascore average declined compared to the year before. Of course, 2011 will go down as Summit's final year as an independent studio; the company was recently acquired by fellow mini-major Lionsgate, a company that had less than half the domestic box office gross (and an even lower average Metascore) than Summit last year, but one that boasts a significant home video library as well as a decent presence in television.

Tribeca Film

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
D+ 48.8 $130k
Rank: 78th
Best film: The Last Rites of Joe May 64 Worst film: Brother's Justice 22

Tribeca's lineup of obscurities failed even to win over critics; the company released just three positively reviewed films all year, and each of those barely reached green Metascore territory.

Variance Films

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
B– 59.0 $1.0m
Rank: 40th
Best film: Elite Squad: The Enemy Within 71 Worst film: 1911 37

A distributor that releases its films (generally, art house fare) in partnership with filmmakers, Variance released its largest-ever slate of titles in 2011, and half of them managed to score positive reviews from critics.

The Weinstein Company (incl. Dimension Films)

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
C 52.7 $296.1m
Rank: 2nd
Best film: The Artist 89 Worst film: Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil 20

The Weinstein Company led all studios this year with an impressive 16 Academy Award nominations (many for The Artist, the current favorite to win best picture honors), marking the third year in a row that the Weinsteins topped the Oscar leaderboard. The company's box office receipts also soared to an all-time high last year, thanks mainly to 2010 carryover The King's Speech. But that 52.7 average Metascore is disappointing for a studio that prides itself on quality fare, especially given that TWC's average in 2010 was over 18 points higher, at 70.9. Oddly, that high average last year didn't translate into high grosses, while, in 2009, the studio posted a relatively low average score but fairly high box office receipts, so perhaps quality just doesn't pay.

Comments (3)

  • TitaniumDragon  

    I think the most troubling thing about this is the fact that the highest scoring films of 2012 were limited release movies, and that this trend has been ongoing. The question I think we need to ask, when we see this trend year after year, is whether the critics are actually rating movies properly, and whether the studios are distributing movies properly. If the best movies aren't seeing wide release, the question we must ask ourselves is whether the best movies are actually the best movies.

  • buellerbueller  

    Lionsgate has a D, film quality wise. They also made "The Artist". lol

  • LamontRaymond  

    Sony Pictures Classics was the gold standard in 2011. And this stuff doesn't happen by accident. The Tim Robbins-style green-lighter over there is just getting it done. Congrats! Great sense of what's good AND what can make you money.

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