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Just real quick here. Box Office Mojo has data on 702 movies released in 2014 (I only wanted to do one year because there's no API I know of for this and I was doing it quickly, I chose 2014 instead of 2015 because there's still many 2015 releases that are still earning money and so I wanted the most recent "complete" year). The correlation between total box office gross and theaters shown in is very robust, at .79. So if you look at the top Metacritic movie from 2014, Boyhood, you can see it has a low gross, ranked 100th on Box Office Mojo's data. But if you look at the theaters shown in, it was only in 775 theaters. Mr. Turner, the second movie on Metacritic's rankings for 2014, was only shown in 120 theaters. Birdman, the Best Picture winner and the 16th ranked movie on Metacritic's list, was in 1213 theaters. Meanwhile, you have to go to the 21st movie on the top grossing list to find a film that was in fewer than 3,000 theaters. It's a classic example of Simpson's paradox[1]. You have two populations, wide-release movies and small-release pictures, and within each population, there's a positive correlation between critical approval (as measured by Metacritic) and box office gross, which is picked up by the contour maps. But because the highest Metacritic scores go to the movies released in 2000 theaters or less, without controlling for the number of theaters a movie shows in, it looks like there's a negative relationship between critical acclaim and box office totals.

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpson%27s_paradox

That's a fair counterpoint. I'll see if I can find theater showing data (that was not in my dataset, and as you note, it's hard to get), and see if I can normalize.

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