Las Vegan’s polling company keeps tabs on Hollywood

Vegas Voices is a weekly question-and-answer series featuring notable Las Vegans.

It’s one of the more influential businesses in Hollywood, but the polling company CinemaScore is run out of a couple of home offices in Las Vegas.

In 1978, movie lover Ed Mintz was surprised by Neil Simon’s “The Cheap Detective.” A fan of the writer’s previous work, Mintz wasn’t prepared for this particular movie. “We did not realize it was a complete spoof,” he recalls.

Critics loved the movie, but Mintz realized there was no real outlet for average moviegoers to express their opinions. Thus, CinemaScore — which movie studios have come to rely on nearly as much as sequels and Jennifer Lawrence — was born.

Every Friday, CinemaScore sends teams of pollsters to theaters in 25 major cities, including Las Vegas, armed with cards containing only a handful of questions: age, gender, what drew them to the movie (i.e. actor, director, etc.). After the movie, audience members are asked to bend back a tab indicating a letter grade as well as tabs revealing whether they would buy or rent the movie when it’s released on home video.

Once that information is compiled, Ed’s son Harold spends a couple of hours crunching numbers and running algorithms, and by 8 a.m. Sunday, a studio has a very good idea how much its latest movie will gross over its entire box-office run. (CinemaScore is contracted by all but one studio; Mintz won’t reveal the exception.)

Mintz, 75, moved to Las Vegas in 1990, having grown tired of the traffic and earthquakes in Los Angeles.

But in the early L.A. days, Mintz focused on getting his information — which movies were liked or disliked by audiences — directly to consumers. There was a syndicated radio show — “We had about 15 stations, 12 of which were in Canada,” he says — as well as a show on the pay-TV forerunner Z Channel and a segment on “Entertainment Tonight.”

All of this coincided with the rise of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. A syndicated CinemaScore column so infuriated the latter when it appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Mintz says, that Ebert threatened to quit if the paper kept publishing it. Years later, Mintz says Harold contacted Ebert and was told, “Why would I want to be involved with people who gave ‘Gladiator’ an A?”

These days, CinemaScore is a family affair. Mintz’s other son, Ricky, handles scheduling and data. Mintz’s daughter Julie, who lives in Denver, searches for pollsters.

“Everyone in the family has been in this business. … Every single one of us,” Mintz says. “In fact, my grandson of 15 is desperate to poll. He wants to take over the business.”

Mintz took some time to talk about the inspiration for CinemaScore, its religious origins and which stars can throw off the company’s projections.

Review-Journal: You pretty much owe your entire empire to Neil Simon.

Mintz: Yeah, it’s interesting, because if I don’t overhear a moviegoer say something or, for some reason, I just skipped the movie, my whole life is changed. I doubt that another epiphany would come rolling up to me so quick. We came out of the theater, and there were a lot of people complaining. … And all of a sudden, some guy said, “Is anybody here wondering why they can’t get the opinions of actual moviegoers and publish that? We keep getting critics.” I looked at him and thought, “Wow, that’s a great idea!”

RJ: What did you do with the idea in the meantime?

Mintz: I thought, “What could this possibly be?” For weeks I was going crazy. And then I happened to be at temple for Yom Kippur. … Forgetting that I probably should be keeping my mind on God, but it was running through my head. … They don’t want you to write on that holiday, so they give you a pledge card, and you just bend back the tab (designating how much money you’ll give). I’m telling you, I took that thing in my hand, and it was like a bolt of electricity. I almost jumped out of the chair. … I thought, “Simple. How simple. How simple.”

RJ: So after focusing on consumers, at what point did the business model change?

Mintz: I never understood why I would be interested in going after studios, but studios, led by Fox in 1989, started approaching us. … From there on in, other studios started hearing about it. And then we started looking at each other and said, “Wait a minute. Maybe there’s a lot more money in going after the studios and not worrying about the movie public.”

RJ: Why poll on Friday nights?

Mintz: Friday night you have the fan base. That’s what we want. And people always say, “You just want the fan base? So you’re going to give every movie an A?” It doesn’t work that way. It really doesn’t. Yes, the grades will tend to be higher, therefore we will build into the system a curve that straightens that out. A’s generally are good, B’s generally are shaky, and C’s are terrible. D’s and F’s, they shouldn’t have made the movie, or they promoted it funny and the absolute wrong crowd got into it.

RJ: Are there movies whose scores still baffle you?

Mintz: I remember (“National Lampoon’s Vacation”). I loved it. I loved it. Got a C+. I couldn’t figure out for anything why people didn’t love that more.

RJ: Are there any outside influences that can affect your projections?

Mintz: I’ll tell you who nails me. There are two stars, it doesn’t matter how bad the film is, they can pull (the projections) up. That’s Leonardo (DiCaprio) and (Tom) Cruise. We’ll give a movie a C+, and Leonardo just pulls the box office with him. … Cruise was amazing. “Eyes Wide Shut?” D-. $100 million. Never, I thought. That’s unbelievable.

RJ: Do you still consider yourself a fan of movies, or is this all just a business for you now?

Mintz: No, I am a big fan of movies. I don’t watch horror movies much anymore. And I’m getting tired of the genre of the unbelievable action films. I always liked action films, but they’re so ridiculous now. I prefer good acting, a clever plot and good ideas in the movies. So, no, I love movies, and I get my share. I wait for October to come, November. That’s when I get a lot of the movies I like.

RJ: So have you ever gotten the chance to talk to Simon or thank him?

Mintz: You know, I didn’t. I saw him in a screening in Los Angeles. But I am the type of person that will not approach a talent, especially if there’s crowds or people around. I will never, never approach. And it never came up again.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com. On Twitter: @life_onthecouch.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Buddy V - Sep 21 Confidante
Famous Infinity Mirror Room is open in Las Vegas
Yayoi Kusama's "Aftermath of Obliteration of Infinity" mirror room is open at the Bellagio in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Glittering Lights dazzles Las Vegas
The Glittering Lights holiday display is shining at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Mat Luschek/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stan Lee in Las Vegas for Madame Tussauds unveiling
Stan Lee Las Vegas speaks with the Review-Journal's Chris Lawrence about his love for his fans and shared universes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ultimate Belgium Waffle Sundae at Lavo
Lavo at the Palazzo serves a 16-scoop ice cream sundae that costs $800. (Rochelle Ricahrds, Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel lLas Vegas Review-Journal)
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"The Lion King" roars into Las Vegas
New music club 172 brings loud luxury to Las Vegas
New music venue at the Rio brings rock ’n’ roll and food together at intimate club. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fans fear for Zak Bagans’ safety in Las Vegas Halloween TV special
Fly Linq zip line time lapse
Fly Linq zip line timelapse
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu (Al Mancini Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like