Metacritic's 2nd Annual Movie Studio Report Card

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  • Publish Date: February 3, 2011

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 2010 releases, as compared to that of its peers. (Yes, we grade on a curve.) Studios are listed in alphabetical order.

First Run Features
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 15 A
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions)
Rank Among Indie Studios
$1.1
34th
Average Metascore 68.8 10,2,0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Mugabe and the White African 77 Dancing Across Borders 47

One of four studios to earn an A grade for quality in 2010, First Run didn't produce any truly great films, or even any hits. Yet of the dozen releases that earned enough reviews to merit a Metascore, all but two of them were positively reviewed, and not one was poorly reviewed. The studio's best known (relatively speaking, of course) and highest grossing film last year was the documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.

Fox Searchlight
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 8 B+
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions)
Rank Among Indie Studios
$152.6
3rd
Average Metascore 63.0 4,3,1
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
127 Hours 82 Our Family Wedding 38

Fox's specialty films label notched several critical successes in 2010, most notably Danny Boyle's 127 Hours and Fox Searchlight's biggest commercial hit, Black Swan. Those two films also combined for 10 Academy Award nominations between them. However, 127 Hours has yet to catch fire at the box office, while another modest critical success -- the sci-fi drama Never Let Me Go -- was among the studio's biggest disappointments, grossing just $2.5 million worldwide against a production budget of $15 million. As a whole, Fox Searchlight's slate of films last year collected $100 million less at the box office than in 2009, even as the studio's average Metascore went up by 13 points.

IFC
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 36 A–
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions)
Rank Among Indie Studios
$9.7
17th
Average Metascore 65.4 22,7,4
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Carlos 94 Falling Awake 24

No distributor released as many movies in 2010 as IFC. (In fact, few other studios were even close; IFC's total of 36 films was 9 ahead of its nearest competitor, Warner Bros.) So that makes IFC's critical success all the more remarkable. Two-thirds of the studio's releases earned positive reviews from critics, and five of those films earned high enough Metascores to qualify for greatness, including the French miniseries-turned-theatrical-release Carlos, the Italian historical drama Vincere, and the French drama White Material. But it wasn't all foreign-language films on IFC's 2010 slate; the studio also released well-liked documentaries such as Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work and The Art of the Steal, as well as quirky American films like Tiny Furniture. The only blemish on IFC's 2010 numbers is that box office total, which is slightly below the previous year's figure. Well, that and The Human Centipede, for which IFC is also to blame.

Lionsgate
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 14 D
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions)
Rank Among Indie Studios
$516.1
2nd
Average Metascore 47.6 4,6,4
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Rabbit Hole 76 Killers 21

That might be a big fat D hovering by Lionsgate's 2010 numbers, but the distributor actually showed improvement on all fronts last year when compared to 2009. Not only did Lionsgate's average Metascore tick up ever so slightly, but the studio grossed over $100 million more at American theaters last year, capturing an impressive 4.9% of the total domestic box office. Lionsgate even scored a major international hit with The Expendables, which grossed $274 million worldwide. But two of the label's three best-reviewed films (Rabbit Hole and Buried) were invisible at the box office, while the Ashton Kutcher vehicle Killers was a dud on a larger scale. And the studio's Saw franchise showed its age, with Saw 3D grossing less than all but one of its predecessors.

Lorber Films
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 10 B+
Total Domestic Box Office
Rank Among Indie Studios
$848k
39th
Average Metascore 62.4 4,5,0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Mademoiselle Chambon 83 Salt of this Sea 43

In addition to releasing the acclaimed French drama Mademoiselle Chambon, tiny Lorber Films also earned positive reviews for a pair of music documentaries about pianist Glenn Gould and singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson.

Magnolia (incl. Magnet Releasing)
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 24 B
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions)
Rank Among Indie Studios
$9.0
18th
Average Metascore 61.8 14,8,0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
I Am Love 79 The Good Heart 40

As it did in 2009, Magnolia released more films than most other indie distributors in 2010, but this time not a single one received mostly negative reviews from critics, a considerable feat considering that the label's eclectic lineup ranged from horror to foreign-language to documentary. However, outside of impressive foreign dramas I Am Love and Mother, most of Magnolia's films didn't blow critics away, instead falling in the decent-to-good category. And the distributor earned more than a quarter less in 2010 than it did in 2009.

Music Box Films
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 8 B+
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions)
Rank Among Indie Studios
$24.4
11th
Average Metascore 64.8 5,3,0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 76 The Sicilian Girl 48

The four-year-old Chicago-based distributor was yet another indie label to avoid releasing a bad film in 2010. Aside from three Swedish-language films based on Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy -- which collectively accounted for nearly 94% of the label's 2010 domestic box office total -- Music Box released the two-part French crime drama Mesrine.

Oscilloscope Pictures
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 9 A
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions)
Rank Among Indie Studios
$1.9
29th
Average Metascore 68.0 7,1,0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
A Film Unfinished 88 The Thorn in the Heart 49

How's this for critical success: Of the eight new films released by Oscilloscope last year (a ninth was a re-release and wasn't scored), seven received positive reviews from critics. Many of those films, however, weren't widely seen outside the critic community, with only the James Franco-starring Howl earning more than half a million at the box office for the New York distributor founded by Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch. A Film Unfinished, by the way, was the second-best-reviewed documentary of 2010.

Roadside Attractions
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 9 C–
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions)
Rank Among Indie Studios
$9.9
16th
Average Metascore 52.8 3,3,2
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Winter's Bone 90 Hemingway's Garden of Eden 28

It was a hit-or-miss 2010 for Roadside Attractions, which managed to release one of the year's best dramas (Sundance hit Winter's Bone) and the underrated Jim Carrey dramedy I Love You, Phillip Morris while also putting out terrible, little-seen titles like Hemingway's Garden of Eden. Roadside's average Metascore and total domestic gross are both below 2009's figures, but then again Roadside didn't receive six Oscar nominations in 2009 as it did last year (all for Winter's Bone).

Samuel Goldwyn
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 7 D
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions)
Rank Among Indie Studios
$11.1
15th
Average Metascore 46.0 1,4,2
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
The Yellow Handkerchief 62 To Save a Life 19

Ouch. Samuel Goldwyn released just one decent film again last year -- the Kristen Stewart-starring road trip drama The Yellow Handkerchief -- but even that barely scored positive reviews from critics. And the company's average Metascore was down over 4 points from a 2009 that was also disappointing from a quality standpoint. That $11.1 million in box office revenues, however, represents a nice turnaround for the distributor after it grossed under $4 million the previous year, though it is still far off Goldwyn's box office take of $40 million in 2008.

Sony Pictures Classics
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 20 A
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions)
Rank Among Indie Studios
$62.9
8th
Average Metascore 71.3 15,4,0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
A Prophet 90 Chloe 48

As it turns out, having the word "classics" in the name of your film company isn't conceited when you do, in fact, turn out classic films year in and year out. And, in 2010, SPC turned out six more films with Metascores of 81 or higher, exceeding the five the company released in 2009. Last year's lineup of acclaimed films included foreign crime dramas A Prophet and Animal Kingdom, the animated The Illusionist, and the year's best-reviewed documentary in Inside Job. Even the studio's "failures" -- its only four films not to score positive reviews -- were hardly lousy films; they included works by normally better-reviewed directors like Atom Egoyan, Woody Allen, and Zhang Yimou. SPC even managed to boost its U.S. grosses by nearly 30% over the previous year, while earning seven Academy Award nominations. All in all, a good year, then.

Strand Releasing
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 14 C
Total Domestic Box Office
Rank Among Indie Studios
$539k
42nd
Average Metascore 53.0 5,5,1
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Bluebeard 73 Happiness Runs 24

Strand Releasing's arthouse films typically play in only a small handful of theaters, which is why many of their films won't be familiar to you. Despite releasing two additional films in 2010, the company made about $200k less than it did in 2009, while also earning less impressive reviews overall for its films.

Summit Entertainment
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 8 C
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions)
Rank Among Indie Studios
$523.2
1st
Average Metascore 54.0 3,3,1
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
The Ghost Writer 77 Furry Vengeance 23

Best known as the company that distributes the Twilight movies, Summit had another strong year in 2010, topping all independent distributors with a domestic take of over $520 million, thanks in large part to, yes, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which collected over $300 million in the U.S. alone. Despite the lack of a critical hit like 2009's Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, Summit's average Metascore actually moved up a few points in 2010, with Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer earning the best reviews for the distributor last year. The company also had a modest hit in the action-comedy Red, though Summit fared more poorly with a pair of romances (Letters to Juliet and Remember Me), while the Brendan Fraser comedy Furry Vengeance was both a money-loser and a terrible film.

The Weinstein Company (incl. Dimension Films)
Category Quality Grade
# of Releases in 2010 7 A
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions)
Rank Among Indie Studios
$80.6
5th
Average Metascore 70.9 5,2,0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
The King's Speech 88 Piranha 3D 53

Now that's more like it. In their fifth year operating as The Weinstein Company, Harvey and Bob Weinstein have finally rekindled some of the magic they had when running Miramax. The studio received 13 Oscar nominations last month, including multiple nominations for best picture favorite The King's Speech, TWC's highest-scoring and highest-grossing film of 2010. On average, the company's 2010 films scored 13 points higher with critics than their 2009 counterparts -- an impressive upgrade in quality that was enabled by films like the drama Blue Valentine and documentary The Tillman Story. The reward for those good reviews, however, was a somewhat disappointing year at the box office; last year, TWC earned well under half what it did in 2009 (though it still qualified as the company's third-best year so far).

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Comments (2)

  • Mitch Tough  

    Tough year for Universal.... again! Who the heck is picking movies over there. There's got to be one dude in a little bungalow - like Tim Robbins' character in "The Player" who greenlights movies. Seriously - an abysmal job. Then again, this year truly sucked for movies on the whole. The King's Speech is the favorite for best picture? Wow. Good little flick - heartwarming, but it didn't stun me with its greatness by any stretch. I put it all on these movie studio execs. Pick better movies to make!

  • G Pay  

    Where does Focus Features fit into this?

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