It has not been a good few years to be a movie critic. With the advent of Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, and IMDb audience scores, any schism between critical opinion and how your average customer views a movie is no longer a mystery. It’s out there in the public domain and scored.

Many cinema-goers first started to really notice this gap around The Last Jedi. Critics raved about it. Some went to lengths that made them appear to be borderline mentally ill in order to defend it online. Fans, as a whole, rejected the movie as a stinker and this only made the shrieking of some critics appear more unhinged.

The movie eventually left $700 million on the table, stalling what was supposed to be the triumphant return of Star Wars and causing Solo to outright flop.

Mass bannings took place on some lesser websites when fans pointed out the weaknesses and failures of The Last Jedi and some desperate critics seemed to lose all credibility. The loss of objectivity caused by access to a screening pass was suggested. After some strange movements in the scores following the disparity gaining notoriety, there were even some allegations of doctored or paid-for reviews being in play.

It was a strange time to be a movie fan.

Now a cinema data analyst and film producer, Stephen Follows, has done the hard yards and run the numbers. In his blog post “Are film critics losing sync with audiences?”, he reported on his study of the critical response to 10,449 films released in US cinemas between 2000 and 2019 and compared the review scores to the audience scores on IMDb.

The conclusion? Critical opinion has opened up a delta with fan opinion, and that has only accelerated since 2000.

An earlier study highlighted similar trends.

The data pulled out an interesting trend that we had probably suspected all along. That the biggest divergences happen in action, thriller, and sci-fi movies. This is because these are “crowd-pleasers” and entertain audiences. “Critical Darlings” such as historical movies swing the other way, towards the critics.

The analysis also shows that movies with under $20m budgets tend to be the most divisive of all. The research pulls out Tom Hardy’s Venom (29% on Rotten Tomatoes vs 81% audience approval) and Gerard Butler’s 2019 action romp Angel Has Fallen (38% critical rating vs. 93 audience score) as recent examples of audience pleasers and critic confounders.

For the reverse, it highlights Brad Pitt’s Ad Astra (83% approval from critics vs. 40% from audiences) and Ocean’s 8 (69% approval by critics vs. 45% approval from audiences). So general trends are following award trends where, for many years, the industry has given itself a pat on the back when dishing out gongs, while the general public rolls their eyes and shrugs.

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