2016: We’re Starting to Demand Better

By: Cal Parsons

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Poster for Moonlight, dir. Barry Jenkins. Image source here

2016 may have generally been a rough year for most, but 2016 was arguably a great year for movies. Not only are there multiple viable Oscar contenders this year, but a trend is starting in blockbuster and animated films as well where the demand for quality has risen substantially. Due in part by a growing audience for online film ratings, movies need good reviews to get people to go to the theater.

It’s hard to say when the start of the new year for films is anymore. January has slowly become filled more and more by Oscar contenders that got limited releases in December, making February more like the Film New Year. The growing Oscar season has shown an increase in better quality filmmaking. November ’16 – January ’17 has had multiple Oscar contender releases that kept film lovers and general audiences busy for the good amount of those three months with films such as Arrival, La La Land, and Moonlight, just to name a few.

2016 opened strong with the box office explosion that was Deadpool, as well as the Coen Brothers’s ode to Old Hollywood Hail, Caesar! that gave good promise for some well-made films for the rest of the year. Superhero films in 2016 had massive hits as well as some disappointments. Captain America: Civil War had the highest box office take of the year for superhero films with $1.1 billion, and X-Men Apocalypse came in last with $543 million. The respective Rotten Tomatoes scores for the films are 90% for Civil War and 48% for Apocalypse. This tells us that audiences do listen to critic reviews. X-Men, being in the same universe as Deadpool, made more than $200 million less than Deadpool, which received an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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“Certified Fresh” is when you (typically) know it’s good. Image source: Rotten Tomatoes website

Rotten Tomatoes has become more relevant than ever for box office success. Sequels, remakes, and reboots have gotten a similar treatment. Some soared, but many absolutely bombed. The Jungle Book, Disney’s live-action remake of the animated classic, has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and earned $966 million. Another remake, Ben-Hur, did horrendously at the box office, only made $94 million, which lost its studio, Paramount, a whole lot of money. Sequels such as Zoolander 2 and Independence Day: Resurgence, however, underperformed at the box office and each got bad reviews.

Rotten Tomatoes and critics reviews in general online have also started a pleasant resurgence in successful original films. Films like The Nice GuysMoana, and Sausage Party have received good treatment at the box office, each receiving mostly great reviews all around. Then there’s the Oscar season, which has seen a higher demand for wide-releases of Oscar contenders. La La Land is the strongest example of this demand, showing a huge take in its limited releaseMoonlight, which I used as the cover photo, has a 99 score on Metacritic and a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and is also receiving a high demand for wider release locations.

Personally, I love this. The growing competition for better filmmaking will keep innovation and creativity alive in Hollywood as long as the box office numbers voice that demand. People complain a lot about all the unoriginal content produced, but it seems to me that if it’s not good, if it’s not “Certified Fresh”, you can’t just make a new film that people are familiar with and get away with it. It needs to be good, first.

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6 Responses to 2016: We’re Starting to Demand Better

  1. mediaphiles says:

    Loved this topic! I think it’s so true that in the time when movies are readily available to stream at a later date, people are less willing to go spend money on a movie ticket unless the reviews say its worth it. I know I always check the Rotten Tomato ratings before deciding on a film – and it seems like I’m not the only one.

    -Meg Schmit

  2. mediaphiles says:

    This is a really cool post because I personally had not noticed how high quality 2016’s lineup of movies was but it is definitely impressive

    -Max Lissette

  3. I agree, competition always calls for innovation in filmmaking, but I don’t think it is ALWAYS a good thing. Being good is better than being different, I agree, but I think there is a place for everything in film. There are plenty of really great “unconventional” films that are often overlooked simply because they don’t fit the mainstream profile. There is definitely a happy medium to be found.

    -Kelly FitzGerald

  4. mediaphiles says:

    American cinema is already paradise. I have so many options, so many good movies that were not available for me in Chinese theaters. BUT I still demand more. More Cannes, more Berlin, more Sundance, more art films in Winston-Salem (thank you aperture,) and Silence showtimes that are before 9PM. I’m being greedy I know.

    -Kevin Yu

  5. mediaphiles says:

    I really love this topic because it raises the question of the importance of sequels. How does a production company know when to green light a film that is original? How do they know when the risk is worth taking?

    Katherine Naylor

  6. marymdalton says:

    I think this was a particularly good year, too…

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