Hollywood has had a tough year—and a historically bad summer at the box office. And back in August, RealClearLife reported that executives were singling out a new scapegoat for their slow ticket sales: movie-rating website Rotten Tomatoes.
That film review aggregation site, which is owned by online movie ticket hub Fandango—which is, ironically, owned by NBCUniversal that runs Universal Pictures—compiles movie scores based on its “Tomatometer” and gives each one either a “fresh” (denoted by a ripe red tomato) or “rotten” rating (denoted by a splattered green tomato). To receive a fresh rating, the movie has to have 60 percent or better Tomatometer score, while it’s deemed rotten if 59 percent or less of the reviews are positive. There’s even a “certified fresh” rating, which denotes a sustained 75 or better Tomatometer rating. (If you’re wondering who constitutes a legitimate movie reviewer according to the site, Rotten Tomatoes has a rather involved methodology, which you can read here.)
But there’s even a series of denotations for audience approval/disapproval of movies, so the site’s ratings aren’t just driven by movie critics.
As The New York Times notes, the scapegoating hasn’t slowed down in recent weeks, as Hollywood continues to weather a down year. Director/producer Brett Ratner recently told the Times “I think [Rotten Tomatoes is] the destruction of our business” at a film festival, and noted a number of off-the-record instances where the site came up in a negative light. One chief executive at a major movie company anonymously told the Times “that his mission was to destroy the review-aggregation site.”
As Fandango president Paul Yanover told the Times: “There is no question that there is some correlation to box office performance—critics matter—but I don’t think Rotten Tomatoes can definitively make or break a movie in either direction. Anyone who says otherwise is cherry-picking examples to create a hypothesis.”
Per the Times, last month, the site garnered 13.6 million unique visitors.
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