Metacritic's 4th Annual Movie Studio Report Card

  • Publish Date: February 12, 2013
  • Comments: ↓ 1 user comment

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

Below, we examine the remaining studios that released at least seven films (with enough reviews to earn a Metascore) during 2012, listed in alphabetical order. The pie charts represent the percentages of films that were deemed by a consensus of professional critics to be generally 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 2012 releases, as compared to that of its peers. (Yes, we grade on a curve.)

Adopt Films

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
A– 67.2 n/a 7
Best film: Barbara 87 Worst film: Mighty Fine 42

This tiny Minnesota- and New York-based distributor—founded at the end of 2011—releases foreign-language and other arthouse fare that apparently only critics see, as most of its releases were not tracked by box office statkeepers. (Their films tend to in extremely limited runs in a handful of cities.) Still, five of their seven reviewed releases in 2012 received positive reviews, with two of those (the German drama Barbara and the Swiss thriller Sister) earning widespread acclaim and landing on Oscar shortlists. That's certainly not a bad way to get started. (And the company's first 2013 release is already scoring strong reviews.)

Anchor Bay

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
F 40.9 $997k
Rank*: 43rd
Best film: 10 Years 61 Worst film: The Victim 11

* Rank among all indie distributors.

A division of Starz Media, Anchor Bay was once known for its horror films, and the company still releases a lot of titles in that genre (though not exclusively), which helps explain its low average Metascore. Only one of its 10 releases last year received positive reviews, and even that film (the ensemble comedy 10 Years) barely squeaked into green territory. Horror film The Victim, written by, directed by and starring Michael Biehn, fell two reviews short of qualifying as the second-lowest-scoring film of 2012. It is one of five Anchor Bay releases last year to receive negative reviews; as a result, the distributor's 2012 average Metascore dropped even further from an already-low 2011 mark of 43.4, and was the lowest average for any distributor in 2012.

China Lion

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
C+ 58.1 $1.7m
Rank: 35th
Best film: A Simple Life 81 Worst film: The Viral Factor 32

A new distributor based on Los Angeles, China Lion Entertainment targets Chinese-American moviegoers with imported films that veer away from the martial arts-laden Chinese and Hong Kong titles that usually screen in the U.S. The results, quality-wise, were a mixed bag in 2012, with critics praising the Taiwanese fantasy Starry Starry Night and the Hong Kong-made drama A Simple Life but liking other releases a bit (or a lot) less.

Cinema Guild

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
A 73.5 $419k
Rank: 54th
Best film: The Day He Arrives 83 Worst film: Natural Selection 57

The Cinema Guild didn't release enough reviewed films to qualify for our report card in 2011, but the decades-old distributor (founded in the late 1960s) had a strong enough slate in 2012 to land the year's highest average Metascore out of all distributors with seven or more releases. The company's release slate was almost evenly split between documentaries and narrative films, and it was the latter category that earned the best reviews, with the most acclaim going to Korean drama (and Cannes entry) The Day He Arrives, Turkish drama (and Cannes Grand Prix winner) Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, and The Turin Horse from Hungarian auteur Béla Tarr.

Film Movement

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
B+ 64.4 $108k
Rank: 80th
Best film: Found Memories 74 Worst film: Off-White Lies 50

This decade-old distributor focuses on DVDs and online distribution, but also releases some foreign and arthouse films theatrically in major American cities. While Film Movement didn't release enough films to be included in our previous year's rankings, the company had the eighth-highest average Metascore in 2012.

First Run Features

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
C+ 57.7 $398k
Rank: 56th
Best film: Photographic Memory 79 Worst film: Gottfried Helnwein and the Dreaming Child 35

Despite releasing a few more films in 2012 than in 2011, First Run saw its box office take decline by about $600,000, while its average Metascore dropped by over five points. The company still stuck to a documentary-heavy lineup, but managed to release one critically panned film last year (something it hadn't done in the previous two years) along with several more that left critics nonplussed at best.

Focus Features

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
B– 61.6 $144.6m
Rank: 5th
Best film: Moonrise Kingdom 84 Worst film: Being Flynn 53

While that average Metascore looks fairly good, it's well below the distributor's 2011 figure of 69.4, though Focus did earn six Academy Award nominations for its 2012 films (one higher than the year before). Highlights of last year's slate include Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, the somewhat divisive Anna Karenina, and the animated ParaNorman, while Focus once again avoided any negatively reviewed releases.

Fox Searchlight

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
A– 66.4 $117.8m
Rank: 7th
Best film: Beasts of the Southern Wild 86   Worst film: Lola Versus 49

Fox Searchlight also picked up six Oscar nominations, most of them for the indie hit Beasts of the Southern Wild, one of the year's best-reviewed films. The studio's average Metascore last year was a mere one-tenth of a point off 2011's score, and Fox Searchlight avoided any negatively reviewed films in 2012, something it couldn't achieve the previous year. The company's other 2012 highlights included Sundance hit The Sessions, and box office success The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a crowd-pleasing comedy for which Fox Searchlight is now developing a sequel.

IFC (incl. Sundance Selects and IFC Midnight)

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
C+ 57.4 $13.8m
Rank: 15th
Best film: How to Survive a Plague 87 Worst film: The Tortured 9

IFC tends to release more films than any other distributor, with the results being as scattershot as you might expect. Most of its critically acclaimed films—including The Kid with a Bike and docs How to Survive a Plague and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry—were released under its Sundance Selects label (average Metascore: 70.9), while many of its worst-reviewed releases were genre films given the IFC Midnight brand (average Metascore: 41.2). Overall, IFC received positive reviews for 20 of its 44 (45%) films, down from the prior year's 54% success rate.

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

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
A– 66.2 $1.3m
Rank: 38th
Best film: 5 Broken Cameras 78 Worst film: Elles 50

Kino Lorber's import-heavy fare typically plays well with American critics, and last year was no exception, though the company's average Metascore was down a few points from the prior year's sterling 70.5. The distributor's films earn positive reviews an impressive 72% of the time, while no film scored below 50.


Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
D 48.8 $791.7m
Rank: 1st
Best film: The Cabin in the Woods 72 Worst film: One for the Money 22

The biggest "indie" distributor—and, with Paramount above it shrinking, there's only so much longer we can continue to lump this 7th-largest film studio in with the small guys—got even larger in 2012 with the acquisition of Summit Entertainment, though we are listing the two distributors separately for at least one more year, per industry conventions. Even without including Summit's grosses, Lionsgate's box office receipts shot up to nearly $800 million last year, representing an increase of over 450% vs. 2011. The reason can be summed up in three words: The Hunger Games. However, the latter film and the thriller The Cabin in the Woods were Lionsgate's only two positively reviewed films in 2012; scores for their remaining releases (including The Expendables 2 and some Tyler Perry films) were a sea of yellow mediocrity.

Magnolia (incl. Magnet Releasing)

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
C+ 59.0 $16.5m
Rank: 13th
Best film: Marley 82 Worst film: Nature Calls 30

Magnolia released a lot of films last year—more than any other studio on our list with the exception of IFC—and the result was a doubling of box office grosses but a slight drop in its average Metascore. However, as in 2011, Magnolia received positive reviews for half of its releases last year, a respectable accomplishment when releasing so many titles. Three of the studio's four best films (including The Queen of Versailles and Jiro Dreams of Sushi) were documentaries, while Japanese import I Wish was the company's top drama.

Millennium Entertainment

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
D– 44.4 $11.3m
Rank: 16th
Best film: Bernie 75 Worst film: A Little Bit of Heaven 14

The Los Angeles-based indie film and TV distributor released only a few noteworthy titles last year, including Richard Linklater's amusing Bernie and the much more divisive pulp thriller The Paperboy. Nearly 78% of the company's releases failed to receive a positive reception from critics, however, and that 44.4 average Metascore was the year's second-lowest.

Music Box Films

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
A 70.4 $3.9m
Rank: 25th
Best film: Monsieur Lazhar 83 Worst film: Snowman's Land 52

Music Box finished 2012 with the year's second-highest average Metascore, up by nearly 10 points compared to 2011 (though box office receipts fell just a bit). The distributor's arthouse fare mostly pleased critics, with the highest marks going to Oscar-nominated Canadian drama Monsieur Lazhar and UK import The Deep Blue Sea, directed by Terence Davies.

Oscilloscope Pictures

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
B 62.3 $5.1m
Rank: 22nd
Best film: Tchoupitoulas 81 Worst film: Four Lovers 39

It's hard to call 2012 a "good" year for Oscilloscope when the company lost its co-founder, Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch, to cancer. But the distributor still put quality product on the screen, scoring positive reviews for 2 out of every 3 releases last year. The studio's box office receipts increased by nearly $4 million (thanks mainly to Samsara), though its average Metascore declined by over five points compared to 2011. A new management team took over last fall, and their challenge will be to maintain Oscilloscope's strong track record for critic-pleasing films.

Roadside Attractions

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
D– 45.5 $19.4m
Rank: 12th
Best film: Arbitrage 73 Worst film: Soldiers of Fortune 19

Owned, like Summit, by Lionsgate, but still considered a stand-alone imprint, Roadside had an unimpressive 2012. Despite some box office hits like the Richard Gere drama Arbitrage (though even that film grossed far more in VOD than it did in theaters), Roadside's theatrical receipts fell 30% compared to 2011 (which, admittedly, was a record high for the company). From a quality standpoint, the decline was more startling: the studio's films averaged 60.4 in 2011 before dropping nearly 15 points last year. And three of Roadside's 2012 releases scored a dismal 20 or lower with critics.

Samuel Goldwyn Films

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
C– 52.9 $9.7m
Rank: 17th
Best film: The Island President 72 Worst film: October Baby 32

Goldwyn's rather middling numbers actually represent an improvement over recent years. That 52.9 average Metascore is the highest we've calculated for Samuel Goldwyn in the four years we have been compiling these report cards, while the studio's box office receipts are up by 50% vs. 2011.

Sony Pictures Classics

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
A 70.1 $50.0m
Rank: 10th
Best film: Amour 94 Worst film: Darling Companion 41

Finishing the year among the top three distributors (in rankings by average Metascore) for the fourth consecutive year, SPC consistently churns out quality titles, and never (at least in these past four years) releases a bad film. The studio's most acclaimed releases in 2012 include Oscar-nominated documentaries Searching for Sugar Man and The Gatekeepers, and foreign dramas Footnote and Amour. The latter film earned an impressive five Oscar nominations, with Sony Classics picking up a total of eight nominations for the second straight year. Financially, however, SPC had a disappointing 2012, with receipts falling about 44% compared to the previous year, to the studio's lowest yearly total since 2009.

Strand Releasing

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
B 63.4 $746k
Rank: 49th
Best film: Oslo, August 31st 84 Worst film: Crazy Eyes 31

Strand continues to release some of the most obscure titles on the arthouse circuit (mostly dramas, some of them foreign), but seems to have developed a knack for picking out the good ones. Though the distributor's Metascore is off by a few points compared to 2011, the company received positive reviews for an impressive 13 of its 16 releases last year, a success rate exceed by only one other distributor (Cinema Guild) last year.

Summit Entertainment

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
D– 46.3 $463.6 m
Rank: 2nd
Best film: The Impossible 73 Worst film: The Cold Light of Day 22

While Strand revels in obscurity, Summit takes the opposite approach, releasing films aimed squarely at the mainstream, such as its Twilight Saga films. Among the non-major distributors, only Summit's parent company (Lionsgate) collected more money at the box office last year, and summit grew its theatrical receipts by over 12% last year. Don't get fooled into thinking the studio released better films in 2012, however; it didn't. Summit's average Metascore fell by five points last year, and released only two films that critics felt were worth watching: tsunami drama The Impossible and teen dramedy The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It might be time for the studio to start concentrating a little more on the quality side of the equation, as it won't have any more Twilight films to sustain its box office fortunes.

Tribeca Film

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
C+ 58.4 $343k
Rank: 60th
Best film: Side by Side 82 Worst film: Don't Go in the Woods 29

Arthouse distributor Tribeca saw its average score shoot up 10 points last year, though overall its films continued to be a mixed bag.

The Weinstein Company (incl. Dimension Films and RADiUS-TWC)

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
B– 59.3 $258.8m
Rank: 3rd
Best film: The Master 86 Worst film: Piranha 3DD 24

While that average Metascore looks a bit low for a name that is so closely associated with award-caliber films, it actually represents a significant improvement over 2011's 52.7 average. And if you remove titles from its genre label Dimension films and its VOD-centric RADiUS imprint, TWC's average Metascore for 2012 shoots up to a more seemly 67.8. Weinstein had a major box office hit in Django Unchained, though its second highest-grossing title of 2012 was The Artist, a carryover from 2011, and the studio's overall receipts were down about 12% last year. For the third straight year, Weinstein led all studios with the most Academy Award nominations, receiving 17 this year, the largest single-year haul in the company's history. Many of those went to Silver Linings Playbook, one of three TWC films (along with Django and The Master) to score 81 or higher last year.

Well Go

Quality: Avg. Metascore Total U.S. Box Office # of Releases
C 56.7 $937k
Rank: 44th
Best film: The Thieves 75 Worst film: My Way 30

Based in Plano, Texas, Well Go USA specializes in bringing Asian films to American markets, and 2012 was one of the company's busiest years to date. While its titles didn't always translate well with American critics, the distributor did earn positive notices for The Thieves (South Korea's record-setting box office hit) and Let the Bullets Fly, one of China's biggest hits.

Comments (1)

  • adolfGarlic  

    Clickable links to show the films that each studio made (and which are described on Metacritic) please! (for the film quality assessment chart)

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