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The future’s so bright, it deserves a letter grade.

The future’s so bright, it deserves a letter grade. (photo)

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It may be based in Vegas, but market research firm CinemaScore is one of the most feared organizations in Hollywood. Not feared in the style of a Harvey Weinstein or Nikki Finke — feared because the company’s proven frighteningly good at predicting accurate box-office grosses.

Over at his “Big Picture” blog, Patrick Goldstein profiles Ed Mintz, the head of CinemaScore. He works like this: Opening night audiences are asked a few simple questions about what they just saw, like what letter grade they’d give it, whether they’d rent or buy the DVD, and why they showed up (“Was it the leading actor or actress? The film genre? The director? Or subject matter?”). Mintz then crunches the numbers, taking into account genre, rating, target demographic, comparable past films’ performance, and arrives at a prediction. He called “Transformers” domestic gross down to the million, and was off on “Brüno”‘s final gross by three. He’s very, very good at what he does.

Since CinemaScore polls audiences opening night, it can only predict what’s going to happen once all the production struggles are over and the marketing is in place, so its most useful application seems to be alerting rival studios that a competitor is about to flail and they should spend more money on a competing project. But studios are obsessed with it, if only to watch their projects’ financial success/failure confirmed by real live audiences. If Mintz could come up with a way to predict letter grades (and hence grosses) during, say, the development stage, when the movie could be changed, he’d be richer than Bill Gates.

Mostly, though, Mintz represents the latest indicator of how studios second-guess themselves into an infinite cycle of test-screenings and ad campaigns designed to push any movie towards its infallible projected gross, and then firing studio heads when things don’t run as projected. You have to wonder if they wouldn’t be better off just hiring random swaths of “ordinary film goers” to run things by committee for two years or so; then, after every pitch and meeting, Mintz could just poll them and see how things turned out.

Mintz is so good at what he does he makes a joke out of the long series of creative condoms accompanying every Hollywood film — a few letter grades and some slowly-acquired know-how and you can more accurately predict in one weekend what’ll happen than in years of planning and strategy. Witness: Mintz is predicting “Couples Retreat”‘s ultimate success to the tune of $133 million because it has no competition as a comedy and audiences give it a “B.”

That explanation makes more sense than the one offered by Nikki Finke — according to a studio exec e-mail she got, “Movies always do business after the studio heads get fired.” I didn’t know rank and file consumers based their viewing choices around corporate politics. Yeah, I’ll stick with Mintz.


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…