A CinemaScore Pollster Reflects on Meeting Founder Ed Mintz

Kenny Miles reflects on the time he met the late Ed Mintz, the founder of CinemaScore, and what his legacy means.

Kenny and Ed Mintz meeting in December 2012

You don’t meet your heroes every day, but I did over eleven years ago, and I still remember it. Hero is a strong word, but does meeting the founder of your dream company (CinemaScore) that you have wanted to work for since junior high count?

I first read about the market research firm CinemaScore in old Entertainment Weekly in the mid-90s that printed a grid of grades prominent critics from around the country (including The Denver Post’s Lisa Kennedy). Included in the grid was the CinemaScore audience grade. I noticed it immediately since this was the first time the critics/audience divide was highlighted so starkly, long before the days of Rotten Tomatoes.

In December of 2012, Ed Mintz, the founder of CinemaScore, was visiting his daughter, my friend Julie, for her birthday.

In the spring of that year, I met her during a marketing internship at the Denver Film Society. I raved about how much I enjoyed CinemaScore and filled her in on how Film Twitter complains about some low grades. (She was shocked.) A few months later, she called me about a polling opportunity in Denver, and I became a CinemaScore pollster.

Anyway, Ed stopped by to see one of his pollsters at work. He was hesitant to go since he was a family man and didn’t want the trip to be about business, but she made him see me. Appropriately, I was polling a movie called The Guilt Trip, and he obliged.

Meeting Ed was surreal. It was a pleasant conversation where he answered my questions about how grading worked, showed me real-time data coming in on his phone, and talked about his interactions with infamous, consequential Hollywood types like Harvey Weinstein and Nikki Finke. We got a picture together to mark the occasion, and it was the only time I wore the official CinemaScore shirt since I preferred to blend in with the audience.

Ed Mintz founded CinemaScore because he didn’t always agree with movie critics, and he turned conversations he had about a movie into a business that pioneered market research in the movie industry.

He sadly passed away on February 6th.

I am thankful that he created this business and grateful I am working for it. You don’t always get a dream job, even if it is a side gig, and you rarely meet the people who created it.

Ken Miles as Ken Miles polling Ford V Ferrari.

I admit how strange it is to be a film critic but also do this as a prominent side gig. Bringing this up is an interesting conversation starter at movie industry events, especially when talking to critics at film festivals. They have so many questions. I joke about how fun it is to watch the magic happen every Friday night.

As much as I love witty writing and captivating cinematography on the screen, I care about ad campaigns, social copy, and release dates almost as much as the movie. Presenting the film in a creative, fun, and accurate way is essential.

The night I met Ed, he told me that my #1 movie of that year earned the dreaded worst grade a movie could receive (despite it earning multiple Oscar nominations the following month). I’m reminded of the dichotomy of doing this work as a critic. It is strange to live in both worlds, but I am versatile and open-minded enough to like it. Audiences will reject what I love and vice versa. It is a tension that is real and won’t be going away. Audiences complain about critics…until they like the movie, of course.

Despite my (mostly) highbrow taste in movies, I am eager to learn everyone’s opinions and look forward to polling. I can spot demographic patterns in the data, like reasons people attended the movie between categories like age and gender for countless movies. On nights I poll, I can look at people walking down the hallway and predict what they see before they go into the auditorium, and it is fun and humbling to be wrong about it, too.

I have polled a lot of movies over the years and have so many memories of doing it. I remember the record response rate I got back from polling Wonder Woman, with a woman-driven audience eager to be represented, which felt like a feminist cinematic event. When I polled The Benghazi movie, multiple people asked me if I was with the Trump or Hillary Presidential campaigns. I polled the Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and sorry haters, my audiences applauded multiple times and awarded it an A grade. The highlight was dressing up as race car Ken Miles (a play on my name) while polling Ford Vs. Ferrari.

Polling movie audiences for over ten years has been an honor. Regardless of my opinion of movies I don’t like, I hope to continue Ed’s legacy of sharp wit, analytical insight, and a friendly demeanor whenever I poll audiences.

RIP Edward Mintz.

CinemaScore has been exit polling audiences longer than I have been alive.

Written by
Kenny admired film criticism as a child when his mother wrote a positive review of Home Alone in his small town Arkansas newspaper and defended it against angry Letters to the Editor. Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies especially the cultural impact of a film, if something is overlooked by Hollywood, or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, specialty releases, an auteur director, a unique premise, branding, and THE much infamous "awards season." Kenny currently lives in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion working as an events marketing coordinator. He spends many Friday nights exit polling for CinemaScore (and his opinions are his own).

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