Hollywood movies are truly global now

Opinions may vary but the result is the same.
Opinions may vary but the result is the same.
Image: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
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Our taste in movies is now universal.

From 2009’s Avatar to 2018’s The Meg, Hollywood studios have spent much of the last decade developing more movies that appeal to global audiences. Viewers worldwide seem to regard those films in much the same way.

Quartz analyzed the highest-grossing US releases of summer 2018 through ratings from two online movie communities from the world’s largest movie markets: the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), a US-based platform that’s used globally, and China’s Douban. Each movie analyzed had many thousands of ratings from users on both IMDb and Douban. Both platforms use the same scale (1-10, with 10 being the highest) for their user reviews.

The average ratings for the 10 top summer releases were remarkably similar—within one point on the rating scale—on both IMDb and Douban. Two of the movies, Deadpool 2 and Ocean’s 8, hadn’t been released in China at the time of the analysis but still had tens of thousands of reviews on Douban, likely from Chinese viewers who watched the movie abroad or pirated it.

The average ratings for the next 10 highest-grossing films were also neck-and-neck on the two sites.

One of the starkest differences was for Jon Chu’s romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians. Audiences on Douban gave the film a 7.1 out of 10 while IMDb gave it a 7.7. The film hasn’t been released in China yet either, but some of the reviews on Douban for Crazy Rich Asians, heralded as a win for Asian representation in Hollywood because of its all-Asian cast, suggested it might have been too reflective of Asian-American culture for some Chinese viewers. Yet even for a movie that IMDb and Douban reviewers disagreed on, their ratings still weren’t that far apart.

It goes to show that, barring cultural differences, the standard of a good movie appears to be the same in different parts of the world.

Where the world rates its movies

Started as a fan-run site in the 1990s, IMDb compiles movie, TV, video game, and other entertainment information and ratings for both fans and the industry. The platform publishes a weighted average rating based on the ratings submitted by users. The site is available in most of the world. Its primary language is English and title pages can be translated into many other languages on the site. It was bought by Amazon in 1998.

Douban, founded in 2005, is a similar social forum, written in Chinese. Douban Movies is one of the most popular sectors, among others like books and music on the platform. The service is extremely popular among China’s wen qing, a term used for China’s “utopian hipsters“ who love sharing their thoughts and critiques.

Douban ranks movies based on their average ratings so users get a sense of how much better the film is compared to others in the same categories. For instance, in Crazy Rich Asians’ case, the film is classified as a comedy and a romance (link in Chinese). About half of all comedies and romances received a better rating than Crazy Rich Asians.