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TV, Popcorn and a Dashboard: Getting Ready for the 2014 Academy Awards

An analytical approach to the 2014 Academy Awards.

Millions of people around the world will be tuning in to the 86th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday to find out which films, actors and directors will take home the much coveted golden statuettes. If you are like me, watching the Oscars will bring up just as many questions as it answers. What other movies has that actor been in? Which film won Best Picture three years ago? And so on and so forth. This year, I decided to do something about it to make sure I had answers and more at my fingertips. In order to do that, I collected data from sources such as the movie ratings website Rotten Tomatoes, film financial information website Box Office Mojo and more. I then used MicroStrategy’s Self-Service Analytics tools to quickly and easily find insights.

I created a dashboard that visualizes the data, allowing you to quickly and intuitively answer questions. You can also carry out additional analysis. Best of all, you can conveniently access it on iPad from the comfort of your couch while watching the event. Here are some of the most interesting insights that you will find in the dashboard:

Oscar nominations have a significant and direct impact on box office revenue.

Image 1: Total gross and daily gross over time for the film 12 Years a Slave.

Image 1 shows the daily gross and total gross over time for the Best Picture nominee 12 Years a Slave. Around the 15th of December, the daily gross flat-lined and the total grossed plateaued. This trend held true until the 16th of January, after which there is a sharp uptick in box office performance. What happened that day to cause such a radical reversal in the trend? The Academy Awards nominations were officially announced.

The fact that the Academy Awards nominations have an impact on box office performance is not unexpected. What is interesting to note is that the visualization shows how direct, powerful, and immediate that impact is — especially for films released earlier in the year. 

Best Picture winners aren’t child-friendly anymore.

Image 2: MPAA Rating for every Best Picture winning film over time.

Something very interesting happens when mapping the history of Best Picture movie ratings, as assigned by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). In Image 2, we see a bar for every edition of the Oscars, colored by the rating assigned to the winning movie for that year. Many of the earlier movies are unrated because the MPAA rating system was not established until 1968, but there is still a noticeable pattern. The first R-rated movie to win Best Picture was Midnight Cowboy in 1970, immediately following Oliver!, the last G-rated film to to win. No G-rated movie won Best Picture after 1970. The last PG-rated movie to win Best Picture was Driving Miss Daisy in 1990. The last two decades have been dominated by R and PG-13 movies, the most recent being Argo and The Artist respectively.

It is hard to say whether this marked progression in ratings is a result of harsher ratings criteria or of a change in audience preferences. Either way, the changing color pattern in Image 2 illustrates change in the film industry over the past 80 years.

Critics enjoy Oscar-nominated movies more than regular audiences.

Image 3: Average Rotten Tomatoes score for all Best Picture nominated films over time, split into critics rating and audience rating.

How do our views of movies compare to those of the critics? Rotten Tomatoes data provides the answer. Image 3 shows the average Rotten Tomatoes scores for all Best Picture nominees in a given year, for both critics (in red) and general audiences (in blue). Over the years, critics have consistently given Best Picture nominees higher ratings than given by general audiences. In recent years, the ratings have been getting closer without completely closing the gap.

So which year had the best lineup of movies nominated in the Best Picture category? Discounting the first edition of the Oscars due to a small sample size in ratings, critics felt the best lineup was present at the 1950 Academy Awards. The average critics’ score was 97, and it included the following films:

  • All the Kings’s Men (Critics Score: 97, Audience Score: 77)
  • Battleground (Critics Score: 100, Audience Score: 82)
  • A Letter to Three Wives (Critics Score: 93, Audience Score: 86)
  • Twelve O’Clock High (Critics Score: 95, Audience Score: 87)
  • The Heiress (Critics Score: 100, Audience Score: 94)

The winner that year ended up being Robert Rossen’s All the King’s Men, featuring Broderick Crawford. It was definitely a good year for movies, but how did it compare to the Best Year as chosen by audiences? Audiences chose the 1994 Academy Awards movie lineup, giving an average audience score of 91.4 to the following films:

  • The Piano (Critics Score: 90, Audience Score: 87)
  • The Fugitive (Critics Score: 96, Audience Score: 88)
  • The Remains of the Day (Critics Score: 97, Audience Score: 90)
  • In the Name of the Father (Critics Score: 95, Audience Score: 95)
  • Schindler’s List (Critics Score: 97, Audience Score: 97)

Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List ultimately won the Best Picture award that year.

These are just a few examples of movie facts to be found on the dashboard. Explore the rest of the dashboard to find your favorite movie’s place in history, the favorites in each category for the 2014 Academy Awards, and much more.

You can access the dashboard here. And remember, you can pull it up on your iPad from the comfort of your couch!

For more information on the MicroStrategy Analytics Platform, click here.

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