Call it coincidence, but today The Playlist spent some time around the watercooler talking about Rotten Tomatoes, and more specifically, it’s cruel system that makes critics choose from a binary choice between Fresh or Rotten when submitting their reviews. It means that something like “Wonder Woman,” which we had issues with an issued a C+ grade comes out as Fresh, or Noah Baumbach‘s “The Meyerowitz Stories,” given a B- grade, coming out as Rotten. There’s no nuance to the equation, which winds up resulting in films perhaps being misrepresented when scores an aggregated (jeez, you put review scores through a meat grinder and they’re perhaps inaccurate, who knew?). However, for all its flaws, Rotten Tomatoes is a powerful tool that audiences use to help decide what movies to go see, and Hollywood is growing weary of what they perceive to be its undue influence.
This past weekend, “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” and “Baywatch” washed up on the shores of multiplexes, with rather dismal box office results (though the former did strong numbers overseas). More importantly, they had terrible scores on Rotten Tomatoes — 31% and 19% respectively — and it seems like studio suits are blaming the poor results for Memorial Day blockbusters on those scores.
Deadline reports that insiders are blaming Rotten Tomatoes for “slowing down the potential business of popcorn movies” and essentially ruining what were once perceived to be “critic proof” movies. From their perspective, it further doesn’t help that the nation’s largest ticket seller, Fandango, runs Rotten Tomatoes scores on their site. Ideas are apparently being floated to cancel critics screenings for these kinds of movies, but we’ve heard that talk before, and it’s unlikely to ever happen (it’s probably a safe bet that the advance critical word on “Wonder Woman” is only to help the bottom line on that film when it opens this weekend).
Of course, nobody is addressing the fact that perhaps moviegoers are more savvy than ever, and particularly in an era when there is so much great content on a variety of formats competing for attention, spending $100 million on a half-assed tentpole based on some IP you need to exploit is not enough to generate ticket sales. If you make a great movie, audiences will show up, and you don’t have to look much further than this year’s horror sensation “Get Out” — made on a shoe string, and earning over $240 million worldwide — to prove that fact (and there are countless other examples).
Certainly, Rotten Tomatoes isn’t a perfect system, and we always encourage people to seek out reviewers or sites they like, follow their work, and make their own decision to see a movie based on thoughtful consideration, not because of a percentage score. Meanwhile, studios need to perhaps stop shifting blame and look at where they failed (how on Earth did “Baywatch” cost $69 million and still look like garbage?) and strive to do better for the audiences, and they might be surprised that their business starts doing better too.