Metacritic's First Annual Movie Studio Report Card

  • Publish Date: January 27, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 14 user comments

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

Below, we examine the other studios that released at least 7 films 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 2009 releases, as compared to that of its peers. (Yes, we grade on a curve.)

Summit Entertainment
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 9 C–
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions) $482.5
Average (Mean) Metascore 51.0 22,56,22
Median Metascore 46.0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
The Hurt Locker 94 Sorority Row 24

There is one word to describe Summit's recent box office success (which includes a whopping 2009 foreign take of $877.2 million in addition to its best-among-indies domestic gross of $482.5 million), and that word is Twilight. The Twilight Saga: New Moon 44, the 2009 installment in the sparkly vampire franchise, almost single-handedly put the indie studio in seventh place among all distributors, grossing $293 million ($703 million worldwide) to date. Summit also scored its biggest critical success to date in the form of likely Best Picture contender The Hurt Locker 94. However, the studio's remaining 2009 slate (highlighted by the Nicolas Cage sci-fi thriller Knowing 41 and the divisive caper The Brothers Bloom 55) was unimpressive from a quality standpoint.

Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 9 D+
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions) $406.0
Average (Mean) Metascore 47.2 8,58,33
Median Metascore 50.5
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire 79 Gamer 27

The studio captured nearly 4% of the total domestic box office (which actually represents a small decline compared to the previous year), thanks in part to the latest two films from Tyler Perry, which combined to gross over $140 million despite the mixed reviews that seem to accompany each of Perry's films. In fact, mixed -- or poor -- reviews accompanied virtually all of Lionsgate's unadventurous 2009 releases, with only the awards-season favorite Precious receiving positive marks from critics. The year also saw a major decline in the studio's Saw franchise of horror films, with Saw VI 30 receiving the second-lowest Metascore of all films in the series, while also bombing at the box office.

Fox Searchlight
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 9 C–
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions) $257.1
Average (Mean) Metascore 49.9 33,22,44
Median Metascore 56.0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Crazy Heart 84 Miss March 7

Fox's specialty films division has scored critical and commercial hits in recent years with titles like Slumdog Millionaire 86, Juno 81, and Little Miss Sunshine 80, and while the studio did not have a single title on that level in 2009, Fox Searchlight did put together its highest-grossing slate of movies ever. In addition to Crazy Heart 84, which has yet to truly set box offices on fire (although a likely Oscar nomination for star Jeff Bridges won't hurt), the studio's well-reviewed 2009 releases included (500) Days of Summer 76 and Whip It 67. Fox Searchlight's most disappointing release of the year, however, was Gentlemen Broncos 28, a commercial and critical flop from the creators of the cult hit Napoleon Dynamite 64.

The Weinstein Company (incl. Third Rail Releasing)
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 8 C
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions) $205.3
Average (Mean) Metascore 53.5 38,50,13
Median Metascore 47.5
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
A Single Man 77 Crossing Over 38

In its fourth full year, The Weinstein Company continued to demonstrate that the glory days of Miramax are long gone. Plagued by financial problems last year, TWC failed to land any massive critical hits that seemed to be commonplace at Harvey and Bob Weinstein's former studio. However, the studio does have two potential Oscar contenders (but unlikely winners) in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds 69 (also the studio's highest-grossing 2009 film with over $120 million in domestic receipts to date) and Tom Ford's A Single Man 77. But more typical of last year for the studio was the disappointing adaptation of The Road 64 and the failed star-studded musical Nine 49.

Focus Features
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 9 B
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions) $161.5
Average (Mean) Metascore 64.6 44,56,0
Median Metascore 60.0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Coraline 80 The Limits of Control 41

In 2009, Focus Features seemed to focus on quality, and the result was a number of warmly-received films, and the studio's biggest yearly box office total to date. Focus did not release a negatively-reviewed film in all of 2009, making it one of just three studios (of the 25 we track in this article) who can boast such an accomplishment. Five of the studio's nine releases did receive mixed reviews from professional critics, but most of those titles were interesting failures: films such as Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock 55, Sam Mendes' Away We Go 58, the Philip Seymour Hoffman comedy Pirate Radio 58, and the visually creative 9 60 did not live up to the high potential that their intriguing pedigrees seemed to suggest.

Sony Pictures Classics
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 20 A
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions) $48.7
Average (Mean) Metascore 70.6 85,15,0
Median Metascore 74.0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
An Education 85 Paris 36 40

Sony Pictures Classics was clearly in a class of its own among the specialty film labels in 2009, with a stellar average Metascore of 70.6 (well into the "good film" range) despite releasing 20 titles. A full 85% of the studio's releases received generally favorable reviews (or better) last year, including the highly acclaimed An Education 85, The Damned United 81, The White Ribbon 82, Tyson 83, and Sugar 82. One disappointment for Sony Classics: Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus 65, which was poised to be the studio's one chance at large-ish grosses but which has so far failed to find an audience in the U.S. (although a decent overseas performance means that it will easily recoup its $30 million budget -- large by Sony Classics standards).

Magnolia (incl. Magnet Releasing)
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 25 B–
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions) $12.6
Average (Mean) Metascore 59.3 52,40,8
Median Metascore 62.0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Food, Inc. 80 Surveillance 31

The Mark Cuban-owned indie released more films in 2009 than all but two other studios. Surprisingly, many of those films -- 52% of them, to be exact -- earned generally positive reviews from critics. None of those releases earned better reviews -- or more money -- than the documentary Food, Inc. 80, which brought in nearly $4.5 million on its own. As a whole, the studio grossed about $2 million more than it had in any previous year, with a broad mix of films that ranged from the drama Two Lovers 74 to the Steven Soderbergh experiment The Girlfriend Experience 66 to the Bob Goldthwait comedy World's Greatest Dad 69.

Roadside Attractions
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 11 C+
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions) $11.3
Average (Mean) Metascore 57.6 40,40,20
Median Metascore 52.0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Goodbye Solo 89 The Golden Boys 32

The independent film distributor scored big with critics with the engrossing character study Goodbye Solo 89 and the eco-documentary The Cove 84, with the Anna Wintour profile The September Issue 69 another highlight. But the studio also released a number of lackluster films, including the low-budget sci-fi comedy Alien Trespass 48 and the little-seen Kevin Spacey drama Shrink 40.

IFC Films
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 27 B
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions) $10.5
Average (Mean) Metascore 61.0 58,31,12
Median Metascore 62.0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Still Walking 89 I Hate Valentine's Day 17

IFC continued its recent strategy of loading up its release calendar, and it paid of in 2009, bringing in the distributor's highest annual gross since 2003. The quality probably helped, as critically-acclaimed titles such as the Italian crime drama Gomorrah 87, the UK political comedy In the Loop 83, and the French import Summer Hours 84 were among the label's best box office performers last year.

Samuel Goldwyn
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 8 C–
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions) $3.8
Average (Mean) Metascore 50.5 13,63,25
Median Metascore 55.5
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Cold Souls 69 Free Style 28

Goldwyn did not perform well in 2009 (consider that the distributor grossed over $40 million the previous year), and earned positive reviews for just one release: the Paul Giamatti meta-dramedy Cold Souls 69.

Regent Releasing
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 11 B+
Total Domestic Box Office (in Millions) $2.6
Average (Mean) Metascore 64.6 70,20,10
Median Metascore 68.0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Taxidermia 83 The Blue Tooth Virgin 35

Although it collected under $3 million in domestic receipts, Regent managed -- by far -- its highest-grossing year to date in 2009. The distributor's top performer was the Oscar-winning Japanese drama Departures 68, and positive reviews were commonplace: 70% of Regent's titles earned favorable notices.

Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 9 A
Total Domestic Grosses $810k
Average (Mean) Metascore 71.9 100,0,0
Median Metascore 70.0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Tulpan 88 Examined Life 64

The veteran New York-based distributor performed poorly at the box office in 2009 (grossing its lowest total since 2002), but it wasn't for a lack of quality. All eight of its major releases -- which were typically foreign and art-house films -- received positive reviews from professional critics (a ninth film did not qualify for a Metascore), resulting in Zeitgeist boasting the highest average Metascore of any studio last year.

Screen Media
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 7 D–
Total Domestic Grosses $802k
Average (Mean) Metascore 41.3 14,43,43
Median Metascore 43.0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Lymelife 64 Spinning into Butter 20

This indie distributor managed the dubious distinction of earning the lowest average Metascore of any studio in 2009, although the 1970s-set coming-of-age drama Lymelife 64 (alone among Screen Media titles) did receive generally favorable reviews.

Strand Releasing
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 12 B–
Total Domestic Grosses $740k
Average (Mean) Metascore 59.2 56,33,11
Median Metascore 62.0
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
The Headless Woman 81 Downloading Nancy 19

Strand managed a pair of critically-acclaimed films in 2009: the Spanish-language puzzler The Headless Woman 81 and Terence Davies' documentary Of Time and the City 81. The studio's top performer, the WWII drama A Woman in Berlin 74, also earned positive reviews.

Anchor Bay Entertainment
Category Amount Quality Grade
Total Releases 8 D+
Total Domestic Grosses $473k
Average (Mean) Metascore 46.5 0,88,13
Median Metascore 47.5
Best-Reviewed Film: Worst-Reviewed Film:
Bart Got a Room 57 Beyond a Reasonable Doubt 35

Owned by the Starz cable network, Anchor Bay managed to impress neither audiences nor critics in 2009, and not a single one of its releases earned positive reviews. The label's top-grossing title was the Ashton Kutcher comedy Spread 43, which earned about $250,000 in limited release.

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Comments (14)

  • This Week’s Mo  

    [...] a related note, Metacritic recently released its first annual report card on the major studios’ revenues for 2009, and Universal finished dead last. How terribly [...]

  • Studio Report Card &  

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  • djkparry  

    why is there no mention of Inglourious Basterds?

  • Lucas  

    Very interesting indeed. The only variable missing is the cost of each movie and a revenue/costs ratio.

  • Evan B.  

    Metacritic keeps getting better every day I come back to this website! Keep up the great articles, Metacritic!

  • John Busey  

    Go Zeitgeist! IV: I don't understand what your problem is. If the general public is rewarding the box office why can't critics, whose job it is to watch films all day long, reward what they like? Isn't that fair? I mean, if everyone liked the same thing you would be bored with that too. I think it's nice that critics and moviegoers are at odds. Keeps things interesting.

  • nathan  

    this is great! thank you for doing this..I've often thought this was an interesting topic to cover, just never thought anyone actually covered it this well. Great Job!

  • Collin  

    Regarding your assessment of Dr. Parnassus, I don't necessarily think it's the audiences fault that the film has failed to garner a substantial amount of money. It's the studio's promotion of the film. I haven't seen one advertisement on television, nor have I barely heard anything at all about it's release in the last few months. I know it's definitely an independent film, but the studio still could have (somewhat shamelessly) promoted more widely the fact that this was Ledger's last film, given it a wider release (it's had very limited showings in Sacramento), and then most certainly recoup the movie's budget domestically.

  • christi  

    Fantastic stuff! Well done!

  • IV  

    Yes, Metacritic's report LOOKS nice. However, it's FLAWED. Why? Check out the critics' scores under films, The Blind Side, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, etc. Moviegoers are the BEST CRITICS, not film critics. Until Metacritic develops a model that incorporates general audience reviews, their annual Studio Report Card will not mean much. Furthermore, how can non-major studios like Zeitgeist, Sony Classics get such high remarks and be taken seriously when their films DID NOT attract a wider audience. Previews and word-of-mouth are the top factors that draw moviegoers to the box office. So, it stands to reason that if a film released by non-majors are marketed to a niche "art house" audience. An audience that film critics tend to favor and identify with. Most film critics DO NOT identify with frequent moviegoers and vice versa. There are too many movies to count that critics panned but moviegoers LOVED repeatedly (and rewarded those films at the Box Office). And not talking about Transformers 2

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