Hollywood has long dominated the UK’s box-office receipts. there’s no disputing the fact. And although there’s been a decade long surge in the numbers working in UK Film production, much of this is ironically production work farmed out from US studios taking advantage the UK Tax Credits alongside a highly skilled and creative workforce… Which brings us to another metric, that of quality over quantity.
Yes, film is ultimately an art and thereby criticism and praise are entirely subjective. This doesn’t stop both film-lovers and cinema critics having strong opinions about what they’re watching and sharing their views, which online culture has made ever easier to collect and collate. Two metrics which can be used to measure the very widest range of opinions are the Metascore as calculated by Meta Critic (a weighted average of reviews from top critics and publications) and IMDB’s Rating scale which allows the public to rate films 1-10 stars.
So in the broadest battle of top line ratings, how do US and UK films fare with audiences and critics?
Interestingly, the UK’s films are rated higher, with audiences awarding on average 6.15 stars vs 5.93 stars in a comparison of all films on all budgets between the two countries. Film critics’ Metascores inspire an even more pronounced gap, with the average for all Hollywood films between 2006 and 2010 at 50, whereas for British films made under £500,000 the figure was 65. This is a significant difference and means that Hollywood films received “Mixed or Average Reviews” whereas the UK films garnered “Generally Favourable Reviews“.
Again, this is all subjective, but where might this difference in broad opinions originate? One theory is there are fundamental differences in what drive the two industries. Britain is a literally nation, with a fifth of the population, but only half the number of books published, and since the early days of cinema, its been seen as a continuation of great literature, civilising the nation. By contrast in the US, Hollywood was founded out West to evade Edison’s patents and make money. The end result is that the British ideal is the moving drama whereas the American ideal is a spectacular blockbuster.
This is highly generalised, and there are a myriad of exceptions from both sides of the Atlantic, but one interesting takeaway is that art produced for potentially higher ideals than primarily making money will generally do a better job at delighting audiences.