Black Panther: Reviews, not the expertise, sell products

Guests watch “Black Panther” in 3D during screening in Nairobi. PHOTO | AFP
Guests watch “Black Panther” in 3D during screening in Nairobi. PHOTO | AFP 

The Black Panther movie featuring Kenya’s own Lupita Nyong’o premiered last week with theatres reporting selling out tickets before its official launch.

It had received rave reviews from critics with a 100 per cent fresh rating from US review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes after its first 50 reviews, a factor that research shows influences 85 per cent of online consumers’ purchase decisions.

One critic, for instance, said: “It has taken a decade and 18 films, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe has finally produced a superhero movie that feels like it was ripped from the pages of a comic book.”

With the movie projected to rake in $120 million (Sh12bn) at the international box office in its opening weekend, the critics’ reviews were integral in getting moviegoers into theatres.

In fact, Kenya’s Westgate’s Planet Media reported that it had sold out tickets for the movie two days before the premiere.

“We had 150 tickets for two showings at 7:00 pm and 8.40pm on the day and they were both sold out, which we expected because of the excitement that the movie has garnered globally,” said the theatre attendant.

Online reviews are considered an important element of any movie production launch and an element that contributes to top a movie’s high opening weekend numbers in contrast to what a movie with low rating would have garnered.

For instance, the movie The Institute, a revenge thriller, performed poorly in the box office due to the poor and few reviews from critics. This is despite having a star-studded cast that would have got consumers excited and buying tickets before its official launch in order to be among the first to watch it.

The movie which premiered in March last year featured Golden Globe award winner, James Franco and Emmy award winner, Josh Duhamel among other Hollywood stars. It received a zero per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes with just five reviews, the least any Hollywood movie has ever received.

“Every once in a while, something will rise to the surface-an acting choice by the talented cast, a line of dialogue, an interesting theme-but it is not often enough to justify the film’s many missteps,” said one critic.

The Institute, whose budget was an estimated three million dollars, later went to make zero sales at the domestic box office in the US and $15,238 at the International Box office in Russia and South Korea, a major loss for its production company.

Critics, therefore, act as advisers to consumers informing them of what is worth spending their money on and what to dismiss depending on their interaction with it. From reviews, consumers decide on their purchases or rather what movie to watch.

According to a 2017 survey on the impact of online reviews by US data analytics company Brightlocal, 85 per cent of consumers trust critics’ reviews as much as personal recommendations and positive reviews make 73 per cent of consumers trust a product more.

“A skilled critic is in a position to give a second opinion and an unbiased one because they have no vested interest,” said Bruce Gumo, a marketing analyst at Biz Trace Solutions.

- African Laughter