Ed Mintz, the founder of the motion picture industry’s tried-and-true audience polling service CinemaScore, died February 6. He was 83.
Known for its mathematical “Coca-Cola” algorithm developed by Mintz, CinemaScore has been prized by studios and exhibitors since its inception in the early 1980s as a domestic box office barometer for movies when it comes to its opening-night audience grades. Pre-pandemic, an A+ CinemaScore meant a movie could leg out to a 4.8x multiple off its U.S./Canada box office opening; a B+ meant a 3.2x multiple to final domestic gross; C+ and D+ 2.4x; and an F 2.2x.
More from Deadline
CinemaScore continues to be operated by Mintz’s two sons, Harold and Ricky Mintz.
Mintz, a math wizard since his teenage years when he penned a book about square roots, The Mintz Method, sparked to the idea for CinemaScore in his late 30s in 1978. Mintz and his wife, along with another couple, went to see the Robert Moore-directed, Neil Simon-penned The Cheap Detective, starring Peter Falk, Ann-Margaret and Eileen Brennan. As a Simon fan, Mintz was looking forward to the movie, having read an over-the-moon review for it. After spending money on a babysitter, dinner and tickets for the evening, Mintz left disappointed and thought the movie was horrible.
Mintz felt the critic led him astray, and that’s when he had an epiphany: Why should one or two critics form an opinion on a movie when it would be better to hear from 500 Neil Simon fans who saw the movie? In Mintz’s mind, that crowd would provide a better opinion to other fans on whether a title like Cheap Detective was worth their money. And with this, CinemaScore was born.
Soon after, while in temple for the high-holiday Jewish services, a pledge card was handed to Mintz. The pledge card had perforations on the amounts to donate; no pens or pencils were needed. This gave Mintz the idea for CinemaScore’s infamous audience polling ballot. He also developed and tweaked the “super sauce” algorithm still used today, and it has become one of Hollywood’s iconic sources on a movie’s overall success.
“When social media started providing nearly infinite and often conflicting information about audiences’ responses to the opening of a film, Ed managed to craft a tool that synthesized the data into a singular score that was invaluable in charting the course for the future of a movie’s campaign,” former Paramount Pictures Vice Chairman Rob Moore tells Deadline.
While Mintz drove from CinemaScore headquarters in Las Vegas to pound on Hollywood studio doors, signing them to audience-service contracts, it wasn’t unusual for distribution executives to stay up late with Mintz on a pic’s opening night, debating or embracing its CinemaScore grade. However, the grades, just like the ticket sales, never lied.
“I loved contacting Ed for the CinemaScore on an opening night,” regales former Sony Global Distribution Chief Jeff Blake. “Whatever it lacked in science (I’m pretty sure way back when it was a punch card handed to audiences exiting the theater), it made up for in timeliness. If the grosses were good, you could add that ‘A’ and it gave a feeling of invulnerability. If grosses were less than expectations, the ‘A’ would give a feeling of hope. Either way, Ed was a marketing exec’s best friend on opening night.”
Giving CinemaScore its first break in the mid 1980s was AMC theatres. Mintz proved that CinemaScore could help determine which movies AMC should book in its multiplexes.
“Ed was a pioneer and visionary in this space, a true gentleman whose success with CinemaScore was well deserved,” former Warner Bros. Distribution Chief Dan Fellman says.
Proof for Mintz that he had built CinemaScore into a mega-brand came in 2018, when he met Dwayne Johnson who called him “an icon” according to family members. That made Mintz’s day.
Mintz was born on December 24, 1940. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin where he majored in math. In the 1970s, Mintz formed a company called Dentametics which heled introduce computerized billing for the dental industry.
As a computer programmer, Mintz wrote his own software to create reports that showcased CinemaScore’s results. He was a longtime practitioner of DOS long after the computer language went obsolete.
CinemaScore extended beyond moviegoer polling. Mintz created CinemaScore surveys for companies in the product-placement industry and conducted research for Anheuser Busch for nearly 25 years. CinemaScore has also been used by Las Vegas casinos when it comes to slot machine additions on the floor.
“Ed will remain A+++ in the history books,” said Warner Bros. Domestic Distribution Chief Jeff Goldstein. “He pioneered an essential global rating benchmark for the entertainment industry. RIP, our dear friend.”
Best of Deadline