Rotten Tomatoes is the go-to site for people who don’t want to read reviews, but want to read a general consensus of whether most critics liked or disliked a movie. The aggregated score alongside the “Tomatometer,” which Rotten Tomatoes uses to certify a movie as fresh or rotten, has become controversial among Hollywood executive and fans because of it.
Rotten Tomatoes announced yesterday that it would be holding back the “fresh or rotten” decision for Justice League until Nov. 16 at 12:01 a.m. ET, almost 24 hours after the review embargo lifts. The idea is to drive attention to Rotten Tomatoes’ new Facebook series, See It/Skip It, which will essentially tell people whether most critics liked Justice League or hated it.
The debate over whether Rotten Tomatoes is harming the industry has been waging for months, and the company’s decision to hold back the reveal of Justice League’s score has people concerned that the website is playing into the concept of Rotten Tomatoes acting as a critic itself instead of an aggregation site. If all eyes are pointed at Rotten Tomatoes’ unveiling of Justice League’s rating, how much does that influence the box office success?
This is the heart of the debate. Yves Bergquist, director of the Data & Analytics Project at USC’s Entertainment Technology Center, published a study in September that showed box office success isn’t tied to Rotten Tomatoes scores.
“What is clear, from looking at all film data since 2000, is that Rotten Tomatoes scores have never played a very big role in driving box office performance, either positively or negatively,” Bergquist wrote.
Executives and producers, however, feel differently. A number of industry members told Deadline and The New York Times that Rotten Tomatoes scores play a big part in marketing for a film and whether people choose to spend $10 to $15 at the box office to watch it. Marvel Studios and Disney, for example, recently used the positive rating for Thor: Ragnarok in its marketing of the movie.
This isn’t a subject that’s going away, especially with the war being waged by DC and Marvel fans. I wrote about the situation earlier this year, noting that “it’s easy to blame Rotten Tomatoes for a movie not performing well, but it’s in no way the website’s fault. This isn’t a subjective approach to ensuring that one type of movie succeeds while another fails. This isn’t a war between Marvel and DC fans. This is a simple algorithm designed to give audiences the fairest examination of a movie.”
Rotten Tomatoes’ former editor-in-chief, Matt Atchity, told Wired that he never wants to see a movie fail and has no personal stake in what does well or what doesn’t.
“I want every movie to be good. I absolutely do,” Atchity said. “I hope every movie I sit down and see is good. Do I want to see people fail? No. I don’t want to see anybody fail.”
Despite how people may feel about Rotten Tomatoes, it’s evident the site isn’t going away. For many studios, including Warner Bros., Rotten Tomatoes is a double-edged sword. Remember, Warner Bros. used Wonder Woman’s “certified fresh” rating in one of its own TV spots.
There’s sure to be heated conversations about Rotten Tomatoes’ decision to hold back the review, and Polygon has reached out for comment. Remember, reviews are subjective and, if you really want to know how Justice League is, be sure to read a number of reviews instead of just looking at a score.
Justice League will be released on Nov. 17.