People often claim that social media has supplanted the role of the critic: When you can tap the views of hundreds or thousands of your peers, who cares what one paid opinionator thinks? Well, according to the numbers crunched by The Wrap, you do. Of 2015’s 15 top box-office hits, 80 percent were critical hits as well, as indicated by their aggregate rankings on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Only “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Home,” and “Hotel Transylvania 2” made into into the Top 15 without critical assistance. They also point out that “Not one of the year’s biggest box-office bombs — ‘Jupiter Ascending,’ ‘ Pan’ or “Aloha,’ ‘Seventh Son”’— had more positive reviews than bad.”
The obvious retort is that, to quote the popular refrain, correlation does not equal causation, and all the data show is that critics and audiences both prefer good movies to bad ones. (You might also point out that the article defines “good reviews” rather generously, including “Jurassic World” and “Pitch Perfect 2,” the latter of which has a scraping-bottom 65% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.) But The Wrap’s Todd Cunningham points out that hasn’t always been the case. “It’s logical that the best movies should be more popular with consumers than bad ones,” he writes, “but it hasn’t been that simple until now. Critics gave a thumbs-down to six of the movies that ranked in 2010’s top 15. In 2012, it was five, and it has continued to decline since.”
The article’s sources point to different explanations: ubiquitous box-office analyst Paul Degarabedian argues that social media is the prime mover, helping audience buzz both good and bad travel at previously impossible speeds, while Rotten Tomatoes’ Matt Atchity says that with the proliferation of choice, audiences turn to reviews to break the tie.
Of course, there are still plenty of movies that do well with critics and not at the box office, but next time someone tells you movie reviews don’t matter, you might tell them to check their stats.