Lane Brown on Rotten Tomatoes's chokehold on Hollywood

For Vulture, Lane Brown wrote a piece on Rotten Tomatoes and its movie metric system still “has Hollywood in its grip” and there’s a glaring conflict of interest too:

[…] Rotten Tomatoes outlasted the dot-com bubble and was passed from one buyer to another, most recently in 2016. That year, Warner Bros. sold most of it to Fandango, which shares a parent company with Universal Pictures. If it sounds like a conflict of interest for a movie-review aggregator to be owned by two companies that make movies and another that sells tickets to them, it probably is.


Rotten Tomatoes allows users to rate movies alongside critics, and three years after the Fandango deal, it changed the way these “audience scores” were calculated. Misogynist trolls had hijacked the platform, coordinating to tank women-led movies like Captain Marvel before they opened. As a fix, for users’ reviews to count, they would need to verify that they bought tickets — which they could do most easily by purchasing them via Fandango. Under the new rules, audience scores for tentpole movies have often gotten an early lift since most of the first-weekend crowds are diehards who buy tickets in advance. (In June, ads for The Flash bragged about an audience score of 95 percent — “as of 6/14/23,” which was the Wednesday that showtimes began in international markets such as Belgium and Finland but two days before the film’s U.S. release. Today, that score is 83.)

I’ll admit I’ve checked films on Rotten Tomatoes to gauge how “good” a movie is. It hasn’t swayed me too far one way or the other but it’s been a decent-enough barometer. But I had no idea studios took the figures so seriously, to the point that they were gaming the system like that. Perhaps it’s a well-known thing but I’m not “in the know”. I rarely go to the cinema or watch movies on any of the streaming platforms I pay for or have access to and if I do, they’re usually cheap old animated movies I watch with my son (that all probably have Rotten statuses).

It’s the wild wild west out there (btw, that movie has a 16% score on the Tomatometer from 131 critic reviews, alongside a 28% audience score from over 250,000 ratings)

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