You might have been too busy enjoying the nice weather to notice, but this was an absolutely miserable summer for Hollywood. If you adjust for inflation, it’s been two decades since box office receipts were as low as they were between Memorial Day and Labor Day. There are a number of explanations for what caused such underwhelming returns, but many people in the industry are pointing to the same culprit: Rotten Tomatoes.
An expansive piece in the New York Times broke down the rocky relationship that Hollywood has with the review aggregator, and while it’s clear that the site’s employees have a great deal of passion and respect for Hollywood, it would appear the feeling isn’t so mutual:
Studio executives’ complaints about Rotten Tomatoes include the way its Tomatometer hacks off critical nuance, the site’s seemingly loose definition of who qualifies as a critic and the spread of Tomatometer scores across the web. Last year, scores started appearing on Fandango, the online movie ticket-selling site, leading to grousing that a rotten score next to the purchase button was the same as posting this message: You are an idiot if you pay to see this movie.
In an amusing twist, it turns out that Rotten Tomatoes— which is owned by Fandango— is in turn owned by NBC Universal and Warner Bros., two movie studios who could theoretically eliminate the pesky thorn in their side if they felt that had more to gain than they had to lose by doing so. With that said, Rotten Tomatoes only becomes a liability when you find yourself in a position in which you’re unable to produce movies that are actually good, a struggle that is all too real for many studios.
At the end of the day, it seems like executives are looking for a scapegoat when a more obvious explanation already exists. When you consider the virtually endless entertainment options people have today, it’s not just enough to spend millions of dollars on marketing in the hopes you’ll persuade the population to see your shitty film when they can find out it’s shitty by checking a website with a reputation built on recognizing shittiness.
I’m lucky enough to live near a movie theater that serves booze and food during the film, so if I’m going to go see something, it’s virtually guaranteed that I’m going to end up dropping at least $50 when everything is said and done. As a result, I want to make sure the experience is as enjoyable as possible, and making sure the movie I’m thinking about seeing doesn’t suck is one of the first things I do. Rotten Tomatoes might not be foolproof, but it’s rarely let me down.
As Ice-T once said: don’t hate the player, hate the game.