From Alison Brie to Zach Randolph, and everything in between.
Now that I have your attention, full disclosure: I’ve never seen Magic Mike, and I probably never will. Unless he’s giving out Jacknife Powerbombs, I don’t need to see Kevin Nash in his tights. What is interesting is that Steven Soderbergh was able to turn Magic Mike‘s miniscule $7 million dollar budget into a $113m -dollar powerhouse last year, making it the second-sexiest Channing Tatum-related moment of 2012 (here’s #1- you’re welcome ladies) and cementing his career as a leading man. On the other end of the spectrum, poor Taylor Kitsch is praying for a Friday Night Lights Kickstarter, after starring in Battleship & John Carter last year – two movies whose budgets combined for a whopping $450m and only made about $140m back combined. Shouldn’t Soderbergh be rewarded for crafting together such a critically acclaimed (80% on Rotten Tomatoes) cash cow? From a business perspective, cases like these are measured using Return on Investment, a simple formula that measures the profitability of investments in a comparable format. I applied the below formula to the top 50 grossing films of 2012 (excluding animated films- kids skew the darndest formulas) and added 6 more that were interesting cases. Most of the budget data was available via Box Office Mojo– this does not include DVD sales, international receipts, etc.
When we look back at 2012, we’ll all be ashamed a film starring Chris Brown and Turtle made over $91 million dollars.
As a point of reference, the ROI average was 153%, with the highest being Magic Mike with 1,525% (!) and the lowest John Carter with -71%. Eighteen of the fifty-six movies tested failed to break even in domestic theaters- most prominently Prometheus, The Dictator, Snow White & The Huntsman, The Bourne Legacy & Men In Black III.
Applying this formula to movies isn’t anything groundbreaking, they do a little bit of it along with other great movie data porn at The Numbers. However, making a lot of money is hardly ever a judge of a good movie, so I ran the formula a second time, multiplying the results above by each movie’s Rotten Tomatoes Score via the below formula. (Math nerd addendum, had to use (1- RT%) for movies with a negative ROI)
Here is the Adjusted Top
The Bottom 10 remained mostly the same. There’s Magic Mike, number one on both lists and in America’s hearts. End of Watch is a forgotten but underrated film by writer-director David Ayer- look out for his next fim, Ten, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and a bunch of familiar young
faces muscles. A similar excitement should be held for Chronicle writer-director Josh Trank, who parlayed his first movie into helming the Fantastic Four reboot (WHY) set to release in 2015.
Let’s compare the 2 lists and see which movies benefited/were hurt the most when the actual quality of the film is considered.
Top 10 benefactors- when taking into account Rotten Tomatoes Score, these ranked higher:
Sixty years from now when Channing Tatum is anchoring the Oscar’s “In Memoriam”, this will be a decent list of the movies to remember from his breakout year. Skeptics say you can twist numbers to prove anything – and although Looper was my favorite movie of 2012, no number-fudging occurred to ensure its appearance here.
Top 10 Why-Did-You-Have-to-Rub-it-in-Our-Faces, when you take into account Rotten Tomatoes Score they rank lower:
These 10 films had a collective average of 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. Taken 2 was the 20th highest grossing film of the year somehow and made over twice its budget domestically. People, Liam Neeson will not come to your house and choke your dog if you don’t see his movies. He’s hilarious in real life. Please don’t let Hollywood steal your money with these lazy, derivative sequels. Honestly, how many more books can Nicholas Sparks have written? This Public Service Announcement has been brought to you by The Hangover 2.
Ultimately, this doesn’t affect a movie studio’s bottom line, but it should indicate to executives which directors/projects they should try to snatch up for the future. Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino continued to prove with their alternative styles, not every movie has to pander to a general audience to make a pretty penny. Christopher Nolan and Steven Spielberg continued to prove you can make a financially and critically successful film using dialogue entirely taken from fortune cookies. Tom Hooper (Les Miserables) continued to look just like Stevie from Eastbound & Down and/or Pete Holmes.
The most exciting confirmation above is the potential in up and comers like the aforementioned David Ayer, Josh Trank and Rian Johnson (Looper). The studios took bold chances in these cases, and the directors churned out products they can be proud of from both a business and an artistic integrity perspective. Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball taught us how the Oakland A’s found players undervalued by the market in order to field a winning product with limited funds (Aaron Sorkin’s Moneyball taught us that even if you’re ugly Jonah Hill, Brad Pitt will let you hang around for your brains). Ayer, Trank and Johnson were the Oakland A’s of last year. Who will be this year’s cinematic Scott Hatteberg? …Movieball (TM).
Wired Magazine had a fantastic article this month about how social media is pushing the old Nielsen family system out by taking into account online following and social media activity. Inspired by this, Part 2 coming later this week will try to incorporate social media into this mix, and the results were…confusing, to say the least.
Questions? Did I leave any important data out? Mad your favorite movie didn’t make the list? Leave a comment or tweet me @kramerkram. If you liked this article, try my last one on The Avengers cast.