Critically Important – Do Film Reviews Influence The Audience?

There has been a lot of debate recently on how important film critics are, and if they can indeed influence the audience’s decision to watch a film. There has also been increasing talk of how our critics cater to a Western sensibility, and how their evaluation parameters are disconnected from those of our Indian audiences.

The film that epitomized the critics-viewers disconnect was Salman Khan’s ‘Ready’. The film was panned by almost every critic, scoring about 1.5-2 stars consistently. However, it remains one of the top 5 films of the year on our WOM (Word Of Mouth) Index, suggesting how much the film was appreciated by the audiences who paid for its ticket. It will be convenient to just pass off this positivity as Salman Khan’s star power. After all, Bodyguard, which came two months after Ready, does not feature in the top 10 films on WOM this year. (I will refrain from over-emphasizing that good opening and good WOM are two different things. The former has absolutely nothing do with the film’s content.)

To find out the exact role film reviews play in India, we studied more than 3,000 theatre goers across the country and asked them a series of questions on film reviews. Below are some key findings that emerged:

1. Only 17% said they read/ watch reviews of most or all the films. A large section of 71% said they read/ watch reviews only occasionally, which could be as low as once in 2-3 months. 12% said they have not read/ watched a review in the last one year.

2. Among those consuming reviews, the primary source of reviews was: Television for 42%, Internet for 29%, Newspaper for 26% and FM Radio for 3%. (So, for all the RJs who have started taking themselves too seriously as film critics, wake up and smell the popcorn.)

3. For males, Internet reviews (35%) are almost as relevant as television (37%). However, for females, television leads at 49%, and newspaper reviews come second at 26%. Younger audience (college) have an Internet skew, though television is the primary source of review for all age groups and markets.

4. When asked which aspect of the review is important to them, the results were surprising. 53% said the analysis (story/ direction/ performances) was more important. 17% said the star rating was more important. The remaining 30% felt both aspects were equally important. Indeed, the star ratings, which are often ‘quoted’ in film ads post release, emerge as an overhyped element of a review. “Tell me about the film and let me take my own decision” seems more like the way to go. That’s why a TV review works better. It combines video (promo) with the analysis, making comprehension stronger. Also, the medium’s higher reach is a bonus.

5. Are reviews reliable? Only 39% felt so. 57% said they use reviews in conjunction with other information and feedback available (e.g. promos, opinion of friends, etc.), to decide on whether to watch the film in a theatre or not. Remaining 4% said they don’t trust reviews at all.

So, dear critic, you are addressing only 17% film audience, out of which only 39% really believe your fraternity in the first place. So, we are talking of just 7% impact here. Or one in 14 people.

Reality check?

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About Shailesh Kapoor

Founder & CEO - Ormax Media. Film Lover. Media Insights Detective. Budding Author. Lifelong Student.
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12 Responses to Critically Important – Do Film Reviews Influence The Audience?

  1. pradeep sharma says:

    mujhe bas yeh kahna hai ki critics aggar itne hi bekaar hai to itne critics kyon hai. Unko itna payment kyun milta hai? Aur ab to star critics bhi hote hai .e.g. Taran, komal. Ek time par khalid mohd. Ke reviews ki bahut value thi. Aur sabse important aggar critics ki value nahi hai to film wale apne paper advt mein critics ki ratings ko kyun promote karte hai?. Main yeh nahi kahunga ki critics bahut acha kaam kar rahe hai india mein par critics hone bhi jaroori hai.

  2. animesh says:

    very good research sir. it shows that the movie reviewers have no respect in india compared to other countries. in india, so many reviewers are there who have no knowledge of movies, just bcoz they have a good writing ability they r hired.
    reading a movie review, i sometimes feel that the reviewer is taking his angst and frustration at the actor, the director. they need 2 grow up, and stop giving stupid reviews. it implies to all critics.
    sir, just see the frustration of one of the critic @cinemasnob. he’s arguing with ur research, cant digest the fact that only 7% beleive their fraternity.

  3. Ahsan says:

    sometimes a few critics judge the film not in accordance with the most number of people can. a few critics like anupama chopra, rajeev masand and mayank shekhar (for a few weeks now) are reviewing films greatly, superbly and fantastically. the problem with the people is that they aren’t well-educated. when the IQ is low then people don’t mind if low-quality films like bodyguard, singham, ready, dabangg, golmaal series etc are made and liked. critics are not popular among audience only because of this IQ difference. love, sex aur dhoka was loved not due to great film-making quality but due to some scenes and its huge appeal to the youth. the art of film-making is totally different thing compared to the subject of the movie. a rajeev-masand-4-star rated LSD won’t be well popular if its few scenes are ignored. people will like reviews only if they start understanding the art of film-making. a bodyguard earns more than naseer ud din shah’s A Wednesday only because people don’t care about the art of film-making. so, from me personally, a great thumb-up to critics like rajeev masand and anupama chopra. a great thumb-down to the masses coz my personal liking/disliking criteria is different than their. i am not trying to say that i am distinct and having very high IQ. at least i respect films than film-stars.

    thank you

  4. mohit says:

    Personally for me, reviews work for small films to an extent. Like for eg; I was interested in watching Jo dooba so paar- its love in bihar and waited for its reviews. But due to the disastrous reviews, I decided against it. For rest of the movies, its only me that decides to watch a movie or not!

    • Sajitha says:

      Hey Justin,Perhaps something siilamr to the CrunchBase footer that they use at TechCrunch.Below each post with the details of the film, rating, director etc So it doesn’t takea lot of web real estate and it’s a bit more integrated. Just throwing ideas around.Thanks,Fabien

  5. Geet chugh says:

    Agreed 2 large extent but Ready gt 4 stars by taran n 3.5 stars by komal

  6. Ram Patnaik says:

    Good insight shailesh…..

    • Sancora says:

      Hi Justin,A movie database would be a great aoitdidn to the site. How time consuming will that be for you? Metacritic is one of my favorite sites and I love the simple but detailed information that is provided for each movie. A link to IMDB and other outlets are also a reason I go back to Metacritic on almost a daily basis. I would suggest using that site as somewhat of a cheat sheet.P.S. 24 starts back up tonight anything you’d like to see in the weekly posts? Do I need to stay spoiler free?Best,Cary

    • It’s good to get a fresh way of looking at it.

  7. harsht says:

    Shailesh,
    It is conclusively proven that critics don’t act as influencers even in western markets. They can merely at times predict the movie’s success, which is also confounded with quality. Beyond the opening weekend the WOM takes over and nothing much can be done to a film’s run by critics or most other factors.
    A lot of research in Hollywood also points to two other findings – 1) negative reviews can hurt the revenues of a bad film even further but positive reviews often dont increase revenues. 2) One interesting study which controlled for time of review wrt time of release (they examined impact of critical reviews for movies that were reviewed before their opening weekend) conclusively proved that critics merely helped viewers choose between two movies, as their demand for going to a movie was inelastic.
    best
    h

    • Excellent! One thing that differs between West and India is that here, the critics are far more disconnected with the audience’s life than in the West. Almost all prominent critics in India have what we call “Western sensibility”.

  8. Pingback: Wine reviews still matter

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