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Web Tool Offers Consumer Movie Ratings

7 Oct, 2002 By: Joan Villa

The consumer rating system CinemaScore is offering a free new tool that could help retailers pick movies to match customers' tastes.

The research service polls 1,000 moviegoers on opening night for each major film and compiles a score of ‘A+' to ‘F' broken down by gender and age. Studios pay for a more detailed version of the research to help position and advertise movies, and occasionally the ratings have been printed in Entertainment Weekly and other publications.

But now CinemaScore is making the ratings available free on its Web site and through a weekly e-mail alert that contains the scores of new films right after they open at the box office, providing yet another way for retailers to select the movies and the quantities that ultimately will rent best in their stores, said CinemaScore president and CEO Brad Peppard.

Some of the films with high ratings go on to box office success, as was the case with Sweet Home Alabama, which set opening weekend records both for the month of September and for the romantic comedy genre. Alabama got some of CinemaScore's best ratings this year, Peppard said: ‘A's from females under age 34, and an ‘A-' grade from every other group. That means stores that have tallied strong returns for Reese Witherspoon's past films, such as Legally Blonde and Election, can expect above-average performance from Alabama, he added.

“Our scores are an incredibly accurate representation of the man on the street,” he explained. “The whole idea of good experiences increasing movie and video frequency is clear. If you see or rent a good movie, it reminds you and encourages you to come back more frequently.”

Because opening night audiences are anxious to see a film and are much more forgiving, any rating under a ‘B' is probably one to avoid he said. “A negative score is almost infallible,” Peppard warned.

For example, last weekend's Jackie Chan vehicle The Tuxedo scored an average ‘A-' from both men and women under 21, perhaps because of Chan's pairing with Jennifer Love Hewitt. Older audiences, however, were more critical, with the 21-to-34-year-old crowd dropping the grade to ‘B' for males and ‘B+' for females, and the over-35 group to a ‘C+,' a warning sign for any non-Chan-fan over 35, Peppard said.

However, the flip side is that some movies underperform at the box office but may be crowd-pleasers. Both Life as a House and Music of the Heart, for example, drew some of the service's highest scores, but were a tough sell at the box office and later in stores because of difficult subject matter. Nonetheless, Music got ‘A's from every group and an ‘A+' from women over 35, while Life received an ‘A+' from both males and females under 21. “Maybe 1 percent of our films get that top rating, but the subject is a hard sell,” he noted. For those titles that customers are hesitant to rent or buy as previously viewed copies, Peppard suggested posting the CinemaScore rating as a shelf-talker under the film, or even creating a “top score” section for different age groups.

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