Tragedy struck Marvel this week, as the CinemaScore for the studio’s latest release was revealed: It got a B, the lowest in Marvel Cinematic Universe history.
That probably sounds pretty OK, but given that every other Marvel flick scored an A- or better, it’s disastrous. The movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score also puts it at the bottom—it’s currently hovering somewhere around 50%. Studio president Kevin Feige is likely crying…on his way to the bank, as the film still managed the year’s fourth best opening weekend (and two of the top three are also in the MCU). So the question becomes: if people are going to keep showing up and buying tickets, what difference does a CinemaScore make? Critics let us down sometimes, praising films that have no legs and disparaging movies that go on to be classics. But are audiences any better at gauging a film right off the bat?
CinemaScore has a different, and generally better, model than some other film-ranking services. Ballots are provided to statistically randomized moviegoers around the country at the theater, and collected immediately after the show. There’s no chance of review bombing a movie you don’t like on principle, because you have to have actually seen the movie (and been randomly selected) to score it.
CinemaScores do typically run high: those polled are opening-night moviegoers, which means that the scores come solely from viewers who went out of their way to see a film on the first day. This explains why Marvel movies fare so well: most of the scores come from the biggest Marvel fans, those most invested in the overall franchise. For that reason, the most baffling scores often have more to do with audience expectations that the film itself—someone who paid for a traditional horror movie might be disappointed when they show up to a traumatic head trip like Heredity (CinemaScore: D+). Someone looking for a sci-fi action movie isn’t necessarily going to be thrilled about Solaris (CinemaScore: F).
This is why those initial grades aren’t necessarily reflective of a movie’s long-term reputation, or even its overall box office legs. Movies do poorly, very often, just because they’re challenging, or surprising, or were confusingly marketed. I’m not sure that’s entirely the case with Eternals, which is an uneasy combination of new ideas, (too many) new characters, and stock Marvel plotting—but it’s certainly not as bad as all that, and suffered in part simply because of it broke the formula.
So with that, here are 20 other movies with baffling CinemaScores, given they’re actually pretty good (or great) movies whose only crime is making audiences work for it.