Monday, September 19, 2011

Win Or Lose With Stephen King

Few authors have enjoyed seeing their publications turned to film more than Stephen King. His very name conjures up feelings of fear and dread. A few dramatic stories aside, King is the King of horror. Still, over the years there have been plenty of bad films with his name attached to them, and fans often wonder, has Stephen King lost his edge? Are there more hits or misses regarding the success of his films? We here at Real to Real will attempt to answer that very question.

First, we have to establish a criteria. We'll evaluate each film, in chronological order, and score it in three catagories. 1) Tomato Meter. This is a fair way to gain a quick insight to how the film was received by movie critics. It gathers up all relevant reviews and gives it an overall score. 2) We'll also judge the fan response. Critics and fans don't always agree, and movie goers certainly have a say. 3) Box office return. From a financial stand point, a movie that fails to meet its investment domestically is deemed a failure. We'll show both the amount +/- of money gained or lossed +/-, as well as the margin of investment vs gross. For example, if a movie made five times gross what the production budget was, it would be represented as "x5." Films that do not disclose a budget will receive an "n/a". With three categories, majority rules. If at least 2 of 3 swing one way, to be fair, that's how the overall will be scored, a hit, or a miss. For fairness, we exclude made-for-tv films, short films, and anthologies that use more than one writer. Here we go.

   Title                              Tomato Meter          Movie Goers             Box Office                    Overall

Carrie                                     91% (hit)                 70% (hit)                +32Mill (hit) x18.7             (hit)
The Shining                             88% (hit)                 91% (hit)                +22Mill (hit) x2                  (hit)
Cujo                                       59% (miss)              52% (miss)             +16Mill (hit) x4.2               (miss)
The Dead Zone                       89% (hit)                 72% (hit)                +10Mill (hit) x2                  (hit)      
Christine                                 65% (hit)                  63% (hit)               +11.5Mill (hit) x2                (hit)
Children of the Corn               39% (miss)               49% (miss)             +13.7Mill (hit) x18             (miss)
Firestarter                               41% (miss)              56% (miss)              +0.1Mill (miss) x1              (miss)
Cat's Eye                                65% (hit)                 52% (miss)              +6Mill (hit) x1.8                 (hit)
Silver Bullet                             50% (miss)              59% (miss)              -1.6Mill (miss) x0.7           (miss)
Maximum Overdrive               18% (miss)               54% (miss)              -2.6 Mill (miss) x0.7          (miss)
Stand By Me                           91% (hit)                 93% (hit)                 +44Mill (hit) x6.5              (hit)
The Running Man                    63% (hit)                 59% (miss)              +11Mill (hit) x1.4               (hit)
Pet Semetary                           50% (miss)              60% (hit)                 +45Mill (hit) x4.9               (hit)
Graveyard Shift                       13% (miss)              32% (miss)               +1Mill (hit) x1.0                (miss)
Misery                                     90% (hit)                 83% (hit)                 +41Mill (hit) x3                  (hit)
Sleepwalkers                           17% (miss)              39% (miss)              +15Mill (hit) x2                  (miss)
The Dark Half                          61% (hit)                 43% (miss)              -4.4Mill (miss) x0.7           (miss)
Needful Things                         27% (miss)              47% (miss)                     n/a                              (miss)
Shawshank Redemption           89% (hit)                 98% (hit)                 +33Mill (hit) x2.3               (hit)
The Mangler                            22% (miss)              24% (miss)                      n/a                             (miss)
Dolores Claiborne                    82% (hit)                 75% (hit)                        n/a                              (hit)
Thinner                                    17% (miss)              39% (miss)               +1.1Mill (hit) x1                (miss)
Apt Pupil                                 53% (miss)              57% (miss)               -5.2Mill (miss) x0.6           (miss)
Green Mile                               80% (hit)                 93% (hit)                 +76Mill (hit) x2.2               (hit)
The Rage: Carrie 2                   16% (miss)              45% (miss)               -3.3Mill (miss) x0.8           (miss)
Hearts In Atlantis                     50% (miss)               63% (hit)                  -7Mill (miss) x0.7             (miss)
Dreamcatcher                          30% (miss)               43% (miss)              +7.7Mill (hit) x1.1              (miss)
Secret Window                        46% (miss)              69% (hit)                  +7.7Mill (hit) x1.1             (hit)
Riding The Bullet                      29% (miss)              38% (miss)               -4.9Mill (miss) x0.02         (miss)
1408                                        78% (hit)                 61% (hit)                  +106Mill (hit) x5.2            (hit)
The Mist                                  73% (hit)                  64% (hit)                 +7.5Mill (hit) x1.4             (hit)

Okay, so let's crunch the numbers. The list of Stephen King motion pictures has 15 hits, and 16 misses. Of the 15 hits, 11 were across the board hits, represented in green. Of the16 failures, 8 failed across the board, represented in red

Let's also take a look at the overall regarding the Tomato Meter. If we added all the percentages together and averaged them, Stephen King Films has an overall rating of 54%. That means critically, Stephen King motion pictures have failed. If we apply the same principle to general audience results, the overall rating is 59%.

So it would seem that Stephen King has put out more failures than hits. But this doesn't make him a failure. These are films based on his novels and short stories. So much more goes into the success or failure of a film than simply the novel it's based on. Directors, actors, screenplays, editing all play a part.

Still, the argument of "are Stephen King movies successful or not?" has been answered, the best it could.


  1. I told you you'd miss at least one or two... a quick look a the list without doing any research tells me that Lawnmower Man and Lawnmower Man 2 aren't on the list!
    Now... research.
    Children of the Corn II: Final Sacrifice was also released theatrically. As was Pet Semetary II. The Night Flier TOTALLY tanked in theaters but was a theatrical release.
    I'm sure you don't want to include No Smoking since it was a foreign film even thought it was based on the Stephen King short story Quitters, Inc.
    And I'm also sure that you don't want to include direct-to-DVD releases so I won't go there.

    Besides that, great list and I agree. When SK films are good, they're REALLY good. When they're bad (and they can be BAD) they're REALLY bad. More misses than hits but the hits hit so hard...

    Interested to see how the above suggestions alter the outcome, especially since, I believe, most of them were financial, if not critical, successes.

  2. Pet Semetary 2, Children Of The Corn 2 and Lawnmower Man 2 were sequels, they were NOT movies based directly off of a novel or short story of his. King never wrote a Pet Sematary 2 or CotC 2, nor did he do their screenplay.

    As for the original Lawnmower Man, it was NOT a Stephen King movie. Early versions of the film claimed that they were related to a Stephen King work. King did write a short story called "The Lawnmower Man", but it was completely different to the movie. King sued the film makers, and had his name removed from the film. I gave The Rage: Carrie 2 a pass and allowed it in this list due to the fact that Amy Irving returns and reprises her role, plus the director was allowed to use footage from the original Carrie. This at least adds a sense of continuity, as CotC2 and PS2 do not have re-occuring characters & actors.

    So yes, I've done my research.

  3. Ohhh....forgot. Night Flier. If you're curious, it had an estimated budget of $1million. Its domestic take? A pitiful $125k.

    According to IMDB it was released on 95 screens, which tells me that it is NOT a theatrical release, save for maybe a few art house theaters or private screenings before going direct to DVD.

    I know you're the kind of guy who loves splitting hairs, but I cannot in good conscious consider 95 screens a "theatrical release." But, to humor you, its tomato meter is "not rated yet" as only 4 critics rated it. But after reading them, you could say it's a 25%. Movie Goers are at 37%. Epic fail across the board.