Home » Jam Says » Reviews of Big budget flicks: A Freakonomical Scam

Reviews of Big budget flicks: A Freakonomical Scam

If you love Salman Khan/ Akshay Kumar/ Sajid Khan movies, do not read any further. Ditto if you love/ work with/ for The Times of India.

I’ve been a loyal TOI reader since I was about ten. Since then, my daily routine has revolved around the paper. I was also in my school days a TOI Young Journalist for two years and fleetingly considered a career in journalism.

If you read a paper for a decade and a half as I have (and for several decades as have my parents) you grow addicted to it you begin to take it seriously. The newspaper business is all about loyalty. People will tell you their breakfast/ tea didnt go down that well if for whatever reason, they could not grab a hold of their favourite newspaper (which was, by the way, a common occurrence during all my childhood vacations with my mother.)

Anyhow, back to me. What I did, instead of becoming a journalist, was to become an engineer and an MBA. What that gave me in turn, was an introduction to several simple yet powerful mathematical tools some of which I will showcase here today

Why the disparity between TOI and Independent ratings?

I have been, for some time, particularly pained by the disparity in TOIÔÇÖs movie reviews versus reviews by independent reviewers like Masand/ Anupama Chopra. From a point where you could blindly trust TOI to rate a movie honestly, things have come to such a head that you need to verify the TOIÔÇÖs movie ratings with more independent reviewers before making a movie-watching decision.

There is 50% percent possibility that TOI will rate a movie higher than IMDB ┬áwould – if the movie has a high budget. TOI simply inflates the ratings of big budget movies.

HereÔÇÖs what I did using the modicum of mathematics I remembered from my engineering and MBA days. I painstakingly took down the ratings of 100 Hindi movies from TOI and from IMDB and then, found if there is a consistent gap in the ratings of the two.

There was a Gap in ratings!! : From TOIÔÇÖs rating I subtracted the IMDB Rating to create a dependent variable I shall call ÔÇ£Gap in RatingsÔÇØ.

Was the gap ┬árelated to the movieÔÇÖs budget? Yes you bet.

I googled extensively for the moviesÔÇÖ production budgets. On top of this, I added an (econometric) layer of whether the movie had a ÔÇ£bankableÔÇØ star like one of the Khans (Saif included), Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar , Ajay Devgan, etc.. And then, I ran a linear correlation and several regressions, just to see if there was a pattern with which the ÔÇ£Gap in RatingsÔÇØ varied.

Just a snapshot of what the data looked like is here:

I found that there was a 47% correlation between the gap in movie reviews in TOI vs IMDB and the budget of a movie. Now what that technically means is that 47% of the value of the variable ÔÇ£Gap in movie reviews on TOI vs IMDBÔÇØ can be explained by the independent variable ÔÇ£Budget of a movieÔÇØ while the remaining 53% is determined by other factors. But 47% isnÔÇÖt really strong enough; thereÔÇÖs still 53% thatÔÇÖs explained by factors we do not statistically understand (or havenÔÇÖt accounted for).

So is there a Gap in ratings between TOI and IMDB if you take non-bankable stars? What, however, is infinitely more interesting is that if you take the average gap in ratings between TOI and IMDB for movies with non bankable stars, it comes to 0.38 points on a scale of 10. However, throw bankable stars into the mix and the average gap in ratings between TOI and IMDB goes up to 1.11 on a scale of 10.

ThatÔÇÖs a 190% jump in the average gap in movie ratings between TOI and IMDB if a movie has a bankable star. Meaning ÔÇô in simple non mathematical terms, the movie rating given by TOI on average goes up by 190% compared to IMDB, if the movie has a bankable star. ┬áStars like the Khans including Saif, Sanjay Dutt, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgun, Hrithik, Ranbir, the Deols and Emraan Hashmi as bankable starsÔǪ bankable stars, by definition, are the marquee stars whose films always make money or are supposed to always make money, anyway)

Another interesting fact ÔÇô if you look at movies with bankable stars, the minimum rating TOI has ever given is 2 (out of 5) whereas the least rating for a movie with a bankable star on IMDB is 0.85 (out of 5).

ThatÔÇÖs a 135% higher minimum review, by the TOI when compared to IMDB if a movie has a bankable star.

Since numbers cannot lie, it is quite plausible that the rumours doing the rounds in media circles are true and TOI actually charges money for maintaining a minimum guaranteed review. Or the movie reviewers employed by The Times of India get so overawed after seeing a big star on screen, that they give it a better rating than does IMDB. Consider this ÔÇô Humshakals, a movie panned universally by almost all critics, got three stars from TOI. Himmatwala got 2.5, as did ÔÇÿThe XPoseÔÇÖ and Rangrezz ÔÇô all movies which were universally buried by more renowned critics. The list goes on and if you are really interested in doing your own data analysis or going through my numbers, mail me at vaibhavrainmaker@gmail.com.

So where does this take us?

One ÔÇô TOI tends to give movies with big stars a minimum movie rating of at least 2.5 or 3 (out of 5). If the movie is terribly terribly terribly terrible, the minimum review guarantee (apparently) falls to 2 (eg: Chatur Singh).

Two ÔÇô if the movie has a bankable star, just shave off 0.55 points off TOIÔÇÖs review from a statistical point of view to arrive at its actual watchability potential.

And, dear Times of India, if you are reading this, you just lost a loyal reader.

PS: Data analysis done on 97 hindi movies with available budgets. 41 of these had ÔÇ£bankableÔÇØ stars.┬á

About jamadmin