At least that's over with
|Good (Metascore ≥ 61)||28 films|
|Mixed (40-60)||17 films|
|Bad (≤ 40)||13 films|
The arrival of the first weekend in March means that spring has sprung -- at least, according to Hollywood's calendars -- which gives us an opportunity to take a look back at the just-concluded winter movie season and examine the bests and worsts of the year so far. As is typical in winter, there are few "bests" to speak of, especially when we are speaking of wide release films. And, this year, the box office results seemed to reflect that lack of quality on the big screen.
First, however, we start by looking at how the quality of 2011's first films compares to previous years.
Quality measures: A mixed bag
Almost half (48%) of all films with 7 or more reviews released this past winter received positive reviews, which is an improvement over 2010, when just 40% of all winter releases were good.
|Avg. Metascore||# Good||Score Distribution|
|2011 (through Mar. 3)||43.2||1||22,36.5,44.5,51.5,66|
|2010 (through Mar. 4)||43.5||2||25,33,43,54.5,63|
|2009 (through Mar. 5)||42.5||1||17,35,43,50,80|
|2011 (through Mar. 3)||61.1||27||26,57.25,66.5,69,87|
|2010 (through Mar. 4)||59.2||18||19,48,64,72,89|
|2009 (through Mar. 5)||60.1||13||17,44.25,63.5,75.75,87|
As you can see above, wide releases were very slightly worse than they were in winter 2010, while limited release films improved over last year's output. There were actually more limited releases this winter (40 with at least 7 reviews each, compared to 32 last winter), and many of them had green Metascores indicating positive reviews -- 27 to last year's 18. But it can't possibly be a good sign if Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is the fifth best wide release film of the season, and, indeed, you won't find many good films among this winter's 18 wide releases, as you can see below:
|1||The Way Back||Drama||66||7.3|
|2||Unknown||Drama, Mystery, Thriller||56||6.4|
|4||Gnomeo and Juliet||Animation, Family/Kids||53||5.6|
|5||Justin Bieber: Never Say Never||Music, Documentary||52||1.4|
|6||No Strings Attached||Comedy, Romance||50||5.2|
|7||The Mechanic||Action, Drama, Thriller||49||6.4|
|8||The Dilemma||Drama, Comedy||46||3.5|
|10||Drive Angry 3D||Action, Thriller||44||6.5|
This year, winter's one and only positively reviewed wide release film was The Way Back, director Peter Weir's historical drama about escapees from a Siberian labor camp in the 1940s. It's the second time in the past three years that only one winter wide release has received positive reviews from critics (last year, there were a whopping two films with good reviews). Here's how The Way Back compares to the top winter releases in recent years:
|The Way Back||Youth in Revolt||Coraline||Cloverfield||Bridge to Terabithia|
To find a good movie over the past few months, you would have needed to spend time at your local arthouse cinema. The 10 best limited releases of the winter season are listed below, and few of them -- with the possible exception of the Ed Helms comedy Cedar Rapids -- are instantly recognizable names. Note that at this time last year, there had already been three "great" films with Metascores of 81 or higher; this winter, there were just two: the Korean drama Poetry and France's Of Gods and Men, which centers on a tragedy at a monastery in Algeria.
|2||Of Gods and Men||Foreign, Drama, History||86||n/a|
|4||The Woodmans||Biography, Documentary||75||n/a|
|5||The Time That Remains||Foreign, Drama, History||74||n/a|
|6||Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune||Biography, History, Music, Documentary||73||n/a|
|7||Lovers of Hate||Comedy||72||n/a|
|8||The Last Lions||Documentary||70||n/a|
|9||Heartbeats||Foreign, Drama, Romance||70||n/a|
Naturally, there were also bad films aplenty this winter, though this year's lowest-scoring film -- the Martin Lawrence sequel Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son -- is not quite as terrible as last winter's worst film, To Save a Life 19.
|1||Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son||Comedy||22||3.4|
|2||The Roommate||Drama, Thriller||23||3.6|
|4||Waiting for Forever||Drama, Romance||26||n/a|
|5||Season of the Witch||Adventure, Drama, Fantasy||28||5.3|
|6||Just Go with It||Comedy, Romance||33||6.3|
|7||The Chaperone||Comedy, Family||33||n/a|
|9||I Am Number Four||Action, Sci-Fi||36||6.4|
|10||The Other Woman||Drama, Comedy||37||n/a|
Money matters: Winter's biggest successes and flops
Well, "successes" might be too generous a word to describe winter's highest-grossing releases this winter. At this time last year, eight winter films had exceeded $55 million in domestic revenues, with three of those surpassing the $90 million mark. This year, those totals are just five and one, respectively. Despite poor reviews, Michel Gondry's The Green Hornet is the year's highest-grossing film to date, though its domestic take is well below its estimated production budget of $120 million (a decent foreign take of over $128 million to date means that the film should be profitable, however). And the 3D animated Gnomeo and Juliet should also turn out to be a modest success; its $83 million to date suggests that the film will finish near the $100 million mark. The quickly-made Justin Bieber concert film Never Say Never will also be a profitable venture, grossing nearly $70 million so far on a relatively tiny budget of $13 million.
But the season seems to be lacking any breakout hits like last winter's Valentine's Day and Shutter Island or 2009's Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Taken. And the last few months have seen a steady parade of underperforming films, including the Farrelly brothers comedy Hall Pass, the sci-fi adventure I Am Number Four, and, most notably, the recent Nicolas Cage vehicle Drive Angry (which had a miserable opening weekend of just over $5 million despite higher 3D ticket prices). Even Unknown, which had a decent start, has faded rapidly, especially when compared to star Liam Neeson's previous winter action film, Taken.
|1||The Green Hornet||Jan 14||39||6.1||$97,035,000|
|2||Just Go With It||Feb 11||33||6.3||$88,200,000|
|3||Gnomeo and Juliet||Feb 11||53||5.6||$83,694,000|
|4||No Strings Attached||Jan 21||50||5.2||$69,654,000|
|5||Justin Bieber: Never Say Never||Feb 11||52||1.4||$68,876,000|
|7||The Dilemma||Jan 14||46||3.5||$48,475,290|
|8||I Am Number Four||Feb 18||36||6.4||$46,440,000|
|9||The Roommate||Feb 4||23||3.6||$36,860,000|
|10||Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son||Feb 18||22||3.4||$33,270,000|
The result of all of these lackluster films is a huge box office slump. Attendance and domestic grosses are down quite a bit compared to recent years, marking the second consecutive winter of box office declines. While domestic grosses for winter releases dropped by more than 17% compared to films released in winter 2010 (and down nearly 19% when you include holdover films that were released late in the previous year and are still in theaters), ever-increasing ticket prices have cushioned the decline somewhat. The number of tickets sold has actually declined 20% compared to last winter, bringing attendance down to its lowest point since 1995.
|Year||Total Domestic Gross - New Films||Total Domestic Gross - All Films|
|2011 (thru 3/3)||$822.6||$1,325.1|
|2010 (thru 3/4)||$996.3||$1,631.3|
|2009 (thru 3/5)||$1,217.2||$1,780.1|
|2008 (thru 3/6)||$1,053.2||$1,582.5|
Will things get better anytime soon? Only Battle Los Angeles, Red Riding Hood, and Sucker Punch would appear to have any chance at major box office success out of spring's first group of releases, and none of those films should come anywhere closing to approaching last spring's incredible box office success story that was Alice in Wonderland. So expect 2011's numbers to continue to trail behind last year's, at least until summer.
What are your favorites?
Have you seen any good movies yet this year -- or any terrible ones? Let us know in the comments section below.