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With Star Wars sitting out this holiday season, it was safe for other blockbusters to stake their claim in December, and stake it they did. This past weekend was one of the biggest of the year, with three huge films all debuting within days of one another. Bumblebee, Mary Poppins Returns and Aquaman all opened in the pre-holiday frame, and while the battle at the box office produced a clear winner, all three films enjoyed the same "A-" CinemaScore.
Bumblebee, Mary Poppins Returns and Aquaman, despite all being different movies, each fared well enough with audiences over the last few days to earn an impressive grade from CinemaScore. That means that these three films are landing fairly well with audiences, and that people who are seeing them generally like them. This puts these three movies on par with some of the other big 2018 movies like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Ralph Breaks The Internet and Ant-Man And The Wasp, but not quite as beloved as "A+" features like Black Panther, Love, Simon, Incredibles 2, The Hate U Give, and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.
Unlike scores on Rotten Tomatoes or ratings on IMDb, CinemaScore is a more scientific measure of audience opinion on a movie. On opening night, CinemaScore polls people about their thoughts on the films they have seen in order to come up with a score that is meant to reflect movie-goer enjoyment more than critical merit.
It's interesting too, because on the surface Mary Poppins Returns, Aquaman, and Bumblebee, are very different. One is a family-friendly musical, another is a comic book adaptation, and the third is a period action movie in a long-running franchise. But I think the common denominator is that they are all fun movies that you can see with the family over the holiday. None of these three are dour or hyper-violent or feature particularly divisive content, and they each leave you feeling upbeat and happy when you exit the theater.
The common CinemaScore among these three is also interesting in light of how they performed differently critically. Although they are all fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, Aquaman sits at 63%, Mary Poppins Returns at 77% and Bumblebee at 94%. Who would have guessed at the beginning of the year that a Transformers movie would have been more of a critical darling than a James Wan film or Disney's follow-up to their beloved classic?
On the box office front, there is also a disparity. Aquaman dominated the competition on opening weekend while Bumblebee and Mary Poppins Returns battled it out for the number two slot - with the nanny just barely edging the robot in the end. Those were the last three big studio releases this year, so perhaps the "A-" CinemaScores they carry will reflect positive word of mouth as they look to have legs throughout the holiday season and into 2019.
Check out our 2019 Release Schedule for all of the biggest movies looking to appeal to audiences next year.