|Headquarters||Las Vegas, U.S.|
CinemaScore is a market research firm based in Las Vegas. It surveys film audiences to rate their viewing experiences with letter grades, reports the results, and forecasts box office receipts based on the data.
Ed Mintz founded CinemaScore in 1979 after disliking The Cheap Detective despite being a fan of Neil Simon, and hearing another disappointed attendee wanting to hear the opinions of ordinary people instead of critics. A Yom Kippur donation card with tabs inspired the survey cards given to audience members. The company conducts surveys to audiences who have seen a film in theaters, asking them to rate the film and specifying what drew them to the film. Its results are published in Entertainment Weekly. CinemaScore also conducts surveys to determine audience interest in renting films on video, breaking the demographic down by age and sex and passing along information to video companies such as Fox Video Corporation.
CinemaScore pollster Dede Gilmore reported the trend in 1993, "Most movies get easily a B-plus. I think people come wanting the entertainment. They have high expectations. They're more lenient with their grades. But as (moviegoers) do it more and more, they get to be stronger critics." In 1993, films that were graded with an A included Scent of a Woman, A Few Good Men, and Falling Down. Films graded with a B included Sommersby and Untamed Heart. A C-grade film for the year was Body of Evidence.
CinemaScore at first reported its findings to consumers, including a newspaper column and a radio show. After 20th Century Fox approached the company in 1989, it began selling the data to studios instead. A website was launched by CinemaScore in 1999, after three years' delay in which the president sought sponsorship from magazines and video companies. Brad Peppard was president of CinemaScore Online from 1999 to 2002. The website included a database of nearly 2,000 feature films and the audiences' reactions to them. Prior to the launch, CinemaScore results had been published in Las Vegas Review-Journal and Reno Gazette-Journal. CinemaScore's expansion to the Internet included a weekly email subscription for cinephiles to keep up with reports of audience reactions.
In 1999, CinemaScore was rating approximately 140 films a year, including 98–99% of major studio releases. For each film, employees polled 400–500 moviegoers in three of CinemaScore's 15 sites, which included the cities Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Dallas, Atlanta, Tampa, Phoenix, and Coral Springs.
In the summer of 2002, CinemaScore reported that the season had the biggest collective grade since 1995. In the summer of 2000, 25 out of 32 films received either an A or B grade. Twenty-six of the summer of 2001's 30 films got similar grades, while 32 of the summer of 2002's 34 films got similar grades, the latter being the highest ratio in a decade.
Thirty-five to 45 teams of CinemaScore representatives are present in 25 large cities across North America. Each Friday, representatives in five randomly chosen cities give opening-day audiences a small survey card. The card asks for age, gender, a grade for the film between A+ and F, whether they would rent or buy the film on DVD or Blu-ray, and why they chose the film. CinemaScore typically receives about 400 cards per film; the company estimates a 65% response rate and 6% margin of error. The ratings are divided by gender and age groups (under 21, 21–34, 35 and up); film studios and other subscribers receive the data at about 11 p.m. Pacific Time. CinemaScore publishes letter grades to the public on social media and, although the detailed data is proprietary, the grades quickly spread widely throughout the media and the industry, as studio executives brag about successes and mock competitors' failures. Subsequent advertisements for highly ranked films often cite their CinemaScore grades.
An A+ grade from CinemaScore for a film typically predicts a successful box office. From 1982 to August 2011, only 52 films (about two a year) received the top grade, including seven winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture. A+ films include Titanic, Dances with Wolves, Schindler's List, The King's Speech, A Few Good Men, Driving Miss Daisy, and Toy Story 2. While from 2004 to 2014, those rated A+ and A earned total revenue 4.8 and 3.6 times their opening-weekend box-office results, respectively, C-rated films' total revenue was 2.5 times opening weekend. As opening-night audiences are presumably more enthusiastic about a film than ordinary patrons, a C grade from them is—according to the Los Angeles Times—"bad news, the equivalent of a failing grade". According to Mintz "A’s generally are good, B’s generally are shaky, and C’s are terrible. D’s and F’s, they shouldn’t have made the movie, or they promoted it funny and the absolute wrong crowd got into it." In the same intervew he cited Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Cruise as the "two stars, it doesn’t matter how bad the film is, they can pull (the projections) up".
Twelve films earned the F grade from 2004 to 2017. Examples of F-rated films include Steven Soderbergh's 2002 remake of Solaris with George Clooney, the comedy spoof Disaster Movie (2008) and the horror-thrillers Darkness (2002), Bug (2006), The Wicker Man (2006), The Devil Inside (2012) and Mother! (2017).
CinemaScore's forecasts for box-office receipts based on the surveys are, according to the Los Angeles Times, "surprisingly accurate" as "most of [the company's] picks…are in the ballpark", in 2009 correctly predicting the success of The Hangover and the failure of Land of the Lost. Hollywood executives are divided on CinemaScore's accuracy. One told Deadline.com "It's not always right, but it's a pretty good indicator. I rely on it", while another said that competitor PostTrak was "much better…more thorough and in-depth".
- Cunningham, Todd (2013-06-18). "CinemaScore Gets 'A' From Studios, Especially When It Counters Critics". The Wrap. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
- Lawrence, Christopher (2016-08-30). "Las Vegan's polling company keeps tabs on Hollywood". Vegas Voices (story series). Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved March 19, 2017.
- Wieland, Chris (March 20, 1993). "In Springs, Everybody's a Critic". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Broward County, Florida. Retrieved March 19, 2017.
- Proxy Statement to SEC, April 18, 2004 Rainmaker Systems, Inc.
- Cling, Carol (1999-09-16). "CinemaScore expands to Internet to offer moviegoers current information". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Stephens Media.
- Bowles, Scott (2002-08-01). "Movies make the grade with fans, critics alike". USA Today. Gannett Company.
- McClintock, Pamela (2011-08-19). "Why CinemaScore Matters for Box Office". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
- Goldstein, Patrick. "CinemaScore's box-office swami" Los Angeles Times, October 13, 2009.
- Busch, Anita (2014-08-09). "B Grade For ‘Turtles': What CinemaScores Mean And Why Exit Polling Matters". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
- Seiler, Andy. "Critics may love "Solaris", but moviegoers don't." USA Today, 3 December 2002.
- Zeitchik, Steven (2012-01-09). "Does 'Devil Inside' suggest a new studio-filmmaker relationship?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
- "CinemaScore Flunkees: Brad Pitt's 'Killing Them Softly' and 7 Other Movies That Earned an F With Audiences". The Hollywood Reporter. 2012-12-04. Retrieved March 28, 2013.
- Goldstein, Patrick. "'The Box': The movie audiences truly love to hate " Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2009.