This is a regression analysis of the correlation between the Meta Critic score for all Paramount wide-release films from 2010-2014 and the percentage of overall domestic box-office that’s made up by the opening weekend gross. You can see that the polynomial trend equation matches the data pretty well by eye, and this is confirmed by the R^2 of 0.3695.
Basically this proves that the quality of a film has a pretty large impact on how well a film does after its initial weekend’s performance.
However, when you run a regression analysis comparing the opening weekend box-office with the Meta Critic score. There’s clearly no meaingful correlation at all.
These two exercises prove something that I’ve suspected for a while. The quality of a film has very little impact on its opening gross, but it has a pretty large impact on how well it will do over its whole life.
Personally, I find this refreshing. You can prove that quality does matter when it comes to the overall financial success of a film. It just doesn’t seem to matter opening weekend.
So what does this mean to the overall gross of a film? If a film opens to $20,000,000 opening weekend and has a 25% score on Meta Critic, then this model predicts the total gross of the film will be $46.51 million. If a film opens to $20,000,000 opening weekend and has a 75% score on Meta Critic, then this model predicts the total gross of the film will be $58.82 million. That’s a pretty significant difference!
Preface: Brian Godawa graciously met with me over lunch to discuss some of these issues. He was very open, despite the strong language in my review, because he is committed to the doctrine of sola scriptura. This commitment to sola scriptura and to iron sharpening iron as we meditate upon God’s Word is the only way to make any progress in understanding of the mind of God. My hope is that this review will foster that kind of dialogue and will aid other Christian artists in their wrestling with God’s Word.
MM:Was there a difference in writing a white-collar criminal like Jordan Belfort (Wolf of Wall Street) as opposed to a man of violence like Tony Soprano (Sopranos) or Nucky Thompson (Boardwalk Empire)?
TW: No. You have to keep in mind that any one person is a lot of different colors. I don’t think you should set out to write criminals as bad people – most of them rationalize their bad behavior. Tony Soprano, if you walked to him, would say he’s a soldier and the people he hurts have it coming. The same goes for Nucky. So write them like real people who have a worldview that doesn’t include them being criminals.
Jordan started out wanting to be a guy who was really successful and to make a lot of money. Unfortunately, when you find yourself on Wall Street, the name of the game is making money for your firm. How you get there, no one really cares. You can see how, but for the grace of God, you may have fallen victim to that kind of thinking yourself had you been in that circumstance. Many people have.
(interview in Moviemaker Magazine)
I heard the following from Alistair Begg on the radio today and thought it was particularly relevant to Christian art, which most often manifests itself as “romantic” rather than genuine.
I am the man who has seen affliction
under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long…
…The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
I wonder, do you agree with me, that whoever it was that sang the song “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” (and then I think Coca-Cola stole that for themselves, if I remember correctly “I’d like to buy the world a coke” or something). Not a bad little song, but not of any lasting value. What about this idea – that the Christian says “I’d like to teach the world to cry. I’d like to teach the world how to cry”?
You say “No, that can’t possibly be, because the Christian is the joyful one. The Christian is the one who’s going to teach the world how to sing, how to laugh, how to rejoice, how to do all the other things.”
Yeah, but only the Christian can teach the world how to cry. What to cry about, and how to cry. And the absence of lament in contemporary Evangelical Christianity is arguably one of the things that presents to the watching world a substantial sense of a Christianity that is not actually authentic.
See also: Tragic Worship
So the point? (I haven’t forgotten) The point is that the industry that labels things as Christian and sells them to you has far more to do with marketing then Christianity. They are marketing to the mixed bag of values that has created the Evangelical Christian subculture. It’s a mix of some historically Christian values, some American values, and a whole lot of cultural boundary markers that set “us” apart from “them.” This sort of system makes us feel safe and right, and it makes some of its gatekeepers very wealthy and powerful.
Nobody goes to an art gallery and says, “boy, that painting is so creative.” Why? Because it’s art! Of course it’s creative! Why else would it be there? It’s very nature is creativity. Or like Lisa pointed out to me today, “that would be like saying, I love your house, it’s so architectural.”
But when someone in the Christian industry actually takes their art seriously, everybody is like “holy crap, listen to how creative it is!”
It’s like a person that’s been living among zombies for years seeing an actual human being and exclaiming, “wow, look at how clean her face is! She doesn’t even have any blood on it or anything!”
People often listen to a lot of contemporary Christian music, and I’m not always sure why. Cause I play it, and I know there’s not a lot to most of it. Sometimes it concerns me, the number of people who can quote my songs, or they can quote the songs of several different people, but they can’t quote the Scriptures – as if anything a musician might have to say would be worth listening to. Really, I mean, what musicians do is they put together chords, and rhythms, and melodies. So if you want entertainment, I suggest Christian entertainment, because I think it’s good. But if you want spiritual nourishment, I suggest you go to church or read your bible or something. And let this entertain you, but look beyond this for what you really need in life.
-Rich Mullins, intro to “Elijah”
Tobias Lindholm, writer and director of the excellent A Hijacking, notes
I couldn’t make a film about the truth of the hijackings in the Indian Ocean, because I don’t believe that truth exists. But I could make a film about seamen, pirates, CEOs and relatives. Because they do exist. And if A HIJACKING feels like it is about them, then I am very close to my goal.
How does your view of truth affect your filmmaking? Does your belief in truth require that you know the truth in every situation? Does your belief in black and white mean there is no gray? Do you give equal weight to the first line of Proverbs 21:2 as well as the second line?
Gene Veith (God at Work, Reading Between the Lines, Honky-Tonk Gospel, ReViewing the Movies):
All distinctly Christian art must be, in some sense, about the agonizing struggle between sin and grace.
Mere moral lessons, while perhaps commendable, are not enough to be distinctly Christian, since Mormons, Muslims, and ethical humanists could agree with them. And mere optimistic positive messages are not enough and may even be harmful, since they can create the illusion that we can achieve righteousness by our own efforts. Works of meaning and beauty have their own value. But to be explicitly “Christian,” a work needs to be, directly or indirectly, about sin and grace and what Christ has to do with them.
As a Christian, I strive to be self-aware of the things that influence and shape me and the culture around me. Ron Baines’ lecture The Roots and Rise of Pietism in American Evangelicalism does a great job of showing how we got where we are. This really helps makes sense of many of the films marketed to a Christian audience.
It might feel like a general discouragement, but there’s something specific you’re believing that’s giving life to this discouragement. Develop the habit of asking your soul questions. “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” (Psalm 42:5). Make yourself put it into words. Be specific (don’t just accept “I don’t do anything well”). Name what it is that you crave.