B Grade for 'Turtles': What CinemaScores Mean and Why Exit Polling Matters
By Anita Busch
This weekend, Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is opening strong with a possible $65M+ three-day haul … and a B CinemaScore. Meanwhile, The Hundred-Foot Journey is opening in fourth place — but with an A CinemaScore from its core audience. And last week, CinemaScore began putting its scores out on Twitter and Facebook (via Denver-based Social Media Energy). In other words, after the exit polls, audiences around the country now will be able to see a film’s CinemaScore, telling the world what its core audience thought of the film on Friday night. In a tweet.
If you look at the breakdowns — and this was not provided to Deadline by CinemaScore — Turtles garnered an A from moviegoers under 18 and a C+ from the 25- to 35-year-olds who grew up watching the Turtles on Saturday morning cartoons years ago. For those under 25 (which made up 45% of the audience), the film garnered an A-, and moviegoers 25 and older gave it a B-. Before your eyes glaze over from too many numbers, when you take in all facets of the core opening-night audience for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, overall it received a B.
So what does it all mean?
Every weekend, box-office reports across the country refer to a movie’s CinemaScore. If a picture gets an A+, it is touted by distributors and filmmakers alike, but if it gets a C+, the hand-wringing begins. An F? It might as well stand for “Forget it.” Exit polling — whether it’s CinemaScore or a competitor like PostTrak — is an important indicator of how a movie might do long-term. It can predict what kind of multiple the film can expect. A multiple is determined by how many times its opening weekend number it might do (i.e., if the picture opened to $20M and ends up at $80M, it registers a 4 multiple).
“The common misperception is that exit polling merely represents a passive ‘rearview mirror’ look at how movies were received by the moviegoing public,” says Paul Dergarabidian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “In reality, comprehensive exit polling … offers studios actionable future intelligence, which can be predictive of a film’s longevity or be used for advanced demographic planning of upcoming releases.”
As one industry observer put it: “(A CinemaScore) indicates that people either like the film or they don’t, but it doesn’t mean that they won’t go to the film.” True. For instance, Shutter Island received a C+ CinemaScore, but with Leonardo DiCaprio in starring the lead, the Martin Scorsese film ended up with a 3.1 multiple. In other words, having opened at $41M, it ended its run at $128M. More recently, the Scarlett Johansson actioner Lucy had a C+ CinemaScore and ended up taking about a 60% fall in its second weekend.
“Even though the people will go to the film, which is opened by marketing, it doesn’t mean they will continue going … and the exit polling speaks directly to the multiple,” said the observer. The Hundred-Foot Journey, with A’s all the way down the line — it got A+’s from the audiences aged 25 to 49 — should end up with a better multiple (see chart below).
How to Train Your Dragon 2 received an A CinemaScore, and its multiple is currently running about 3.4, while The Counselor received a D CinemaScore last year and ended up with a multiple of only 2.1. So you can see the drop-off. When you look, historically, at the data, a clear picture emerges: