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Think of the Children? I Blame the Bastards.

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Think Pieces | September 29, 2010 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Think Pieces | September 29, 2010 |

Last week we had a gay old time looking at a graph showing some interesting trends in the quality of movies versus their box office take. Now there was some disagreement as to whether the rankings from Box Office Mojo were really all that accurate to what we in these parts would call good, bad or ugly. Some folks suggested that an aggregate should be compiled of different ranking sites, or that Rotten Tomatoes might provide a more true to quality measure. These are both good ideas limited by the simple and tragic expedient that Box Office Mojo was the data I had to work with, and so by induction therefore must be the most accurate. I kid. Mostly.

In any case, I thought it might be fun to take a look at a few other graphs generated from box office figures, movie grades, and adding in the factors of release month and MPAA rating.

First up, we’ve got a lovely bar chart showing the average box office take of films released in each month of the year. Now technically this can be a bit misleading, because films often last longer than a month in the box office (especially if they make any money at all) and in the most extreme case, a film released on the last day of a month will see most of its box office earned in the next month despite counting towards the last month. So the best way to do this would be to compile box office per day, but that kind of data isn’t nearly as accessible as the simple date of release. I think this by and large averages out in the grand scheme of things, especially since most films get the vast majority of their box office take on opening weekend, dropping off quickly at the ten day mark. The exception is probably the December/January cut since a lot of films get the late December release to sneak into Oscar contention and then earn most of their actual box office in January.


And that is exactly what we see here, with the big box office months (unsurprisingly) being the summer blockbusters and the November and December films. The next graph shows that we might be on to something with the Oscar assumption. We’ve got the month of release against average user grade (on a 4.0 scale) and December definitely has a distinctly higher calibre of release. Of course, the spread here is really small. I didn’t notice until after this was done and uploaded that the y-axis was shrunk down to make the difference look bigger than it was. Lying with graphs is fun for the whole family!


The worst month (January) is at 1.98 which isn’t all that much less than the best (December) at 2.36. In grade terms, that’s the difference between C and C+. If you likey the statistics terms, the standard errors on this one are ludicrously big, so they should be taken with a tablespoon of salt. But it’s still fun to look at.

Next up, we’ll turn to what we can learn from the MPAA ratings. Basically, all of those little kids movies that parents dump entire minivans at and no one else would be caught dead near? Yeah, they’re making all the money.


Some of this is just the big giant outliers of Shrek, etc. driving up the kid’s scores, but you should see the same sort of outliers up in the R range also. I think it’s more indicative of the market though. Make a shitty kids movie, and parents will still shovel the kids in. Make a shitty R movie and the consenting adults can find something more fun to consent to. The NC-17 and unrated takes aren’t all that surprising but overall it’s pretty abysmal just how disappointing the average box office take is for R-rated films.

So does this mean that the more kid-friendly rated movies are better overall?


All right, fine. Box Office Mojo’s film grades are being spiked by six year olds drunk on the Koolaid of power. That’s the only explanation I’ve got for this.

* Note: I do not claim that these findings even remotely hold up to statistical or scientific rigor. Any attempt to hold them up to such standards will be roundly ridiculed.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at You can email him here.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.