About 20 minutes into the new “Ghostbusters,” which debuted Friday, is a joke that seems to be responding to the controversy surrounding the film. Three of the main characters — all women — upload a video about seeing a ghost onto YouTube. Then, they look at the comments. The top one? “Ain’t no b—es gonna hunt no ghosts.”
It’s fitting. Long before the relaunch of “Ghostbusters” even hit theaters, it became a magnet for controversy.
The reason is as simple as it is ridiculous: Instead of starring four men who were directly or tangentially related to “Saturday Night Live,” the movie stars four women who are directly or tangentially related to “Saturday Night Live.” The campy comedy quickly transformed from an updated piece of American cultural nostalgia into a line in the feminist sand.
“Why feminists have an obligation to see ‘Ghostbusters,'” said one op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.
“If ‘Ghostbusters’ is a feminist victory, feminist pop culture is doomed,” The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg proclaimed.
Now, men seem to be sabotaging its online ratings, and one can’t help but wonder if those reviews have affected its opening box office returns.
Over the weekend, the movie opened to numbers that, depending on one’s vantage point, could be considered either positive or negative. Sony marketing and distribution chief Josh Greenstein called the restart “successful” and told Deadline “This is the biggest opening for a live-action comedy in over a year and we reached a wide audience that’s both new and nostalgic.”
The publication also pointed out, though, that Sony spent more than $100 million on publicity and advertising, meaning that a $46 million opening can be seen as underwhelming. Variety called the numbers”solid-but-not-stellar.”
For comparison, “The Secret Life of Pets” opened the previous weekend to $104 million and still managed to beat out “Ghostbusters” in its second week, making $50.5 million. Meanwhile, “Finding Dory” opened to $135 million last month.
Regardless if you think $46 million is a solid or a weak opening weekend, one thing is certain: There is a striking disparity between the film’s rating from critics and those from its everyday viewers.
(Note: The following ratings are as of early Monday morning. Given that they are continuously updated, the numbers may change over time.)
On Rotten Tomatoes, a website that aggregates film reviews and splits them into a simple binary — fresh or rotten — the film has a 73 percent “fresh” rating, meaning 73 percent of critics recommend the film. On IMDB, the film’s user rating is a dismal 5.1.
That disparity is wholly unusual. For comparison, the recently released “The Legend of Tarzan” has a 36 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes but a 6.8 rating on IMDB.
As FiveThirtyEight’s Walter Hickey found in his continued coverage of how men and women rate visual media differently online, men are responsible for the shockingly low IMDB rating.
On Thursday, the movie had an IMDB average of 5.1 out of 10, which was surprisingly low, given the film’s relatively high critical reviews. A closer look revealed men rated the film, on average, a 3.6 out of 10. Women, on the other hand, rated it 7.7 out of 10.
Additionally, nearly five times as many men had rated the movie — 7,547 men as opposed to 1,564 women.
Many armchair number crunchers have attempted to determine if a film’s average IMDB rating has any effect on its actual ticket sales, but the jury remains out on any causation. That said, a curated list on the site of the highest grossing films of all time only includes one movie with a rating under a 6 out of 10.
Also impossible to discern is whether men are intentionally rating the film low as a means of “trolling” those who enjoy it, but it should be noted that when Hickey crunched those 12,000 votes, the movie hadn’t been officially released in the United States.
Not to mention, this phenomenon isn’t only seen with the new “Ghostbusters.” Men systematically rate movies and television shows starring and/or made specifically for women much lower than average, but women do not do the same when rating shows made for men.
As an example, “Sex and the City,” a show about, starring and arguably made for women, has been rated 79,597 times on IMDB. Of these, 39,876 raters were women, and 27,876 were men. On average, women rated the show an 8.1, while men gave it a 5.8.
That might seem like an anomaly, but a further look into the numbers proved it isn’t.
Hickey looked at the top 100 shows that skewed male (in terms of who rated it, a good indicator of who watched it) and the top 100 that skewed female. Of those, 3.3 percent of female raters gave the male-focused shows a 1 out of 10. But 6.7 percent of men gave the female-based shows a 1.
That created a fairly severe ratings disparity. As Hickey wrote:
Among shows with 10,000 ratings or more, the average rating of the top-100 male-skewing shows was 8.2, while the average rating of the top-100 female shows was 7.4.
What that means for the eventual success or failure of “Ghostbusters” is anyone’s guess. It has received a deluge of negative attention since it was announced in 2014. The film’s trailer was the most disliked trailer in YouTube’s history, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It quickly became the film that launched a thousand thinkpieces on gender and feminism, before it even hit theaters.
It’s impossible to predict how the film will do simply based on its opening weekend, but one thing is clear: If you’re hoping for an accurate reading of how people are responding to it, it’s likely best to stay off of IMDB.