Fresh or rotten: Has Rotten Tomatoes helped or hurt the film industry?

Untitled-1As a film junkie, I’ve gotten into the habit of checking the Rotten Tomatoes website every week. I like to see what movies are coming up and what kind of buzz they’re getting, whether it’s good or bad. If a movie I’m looking forward to gets a “fresh” rating or a high score, I breathe a sigh of relief. But if a movie is “rotten,” I lower my expectations…or I might end up skipping it altogether.

Love it or hate it, Rotten Tomatoes is becoming an increasingly powerful player in the film industry. A fresh rating has become a badge of honor to tout in advertising, and a rotten rating is a mark of shame that can have an impact on box office sales. Some fans and industry insiders argue that the website’s rating system is unfair, while others say if film makers are upset about their film getting a rotten score, they should have just made a better movie in the first place.

Overall, I’m a fan of Rotten Tomatoes, though I do think it’s important to take the ratings with a grain of salt. The website is an easy way for viewers to get an overall perspective about how good a film is from a diverse array of critics. I’ve found if a film hits in the 80-90+ percent range, I’m probably going to love it, and I need to see it opening weekend. If it’s 60-70 percent, well, it will probably still be fun but there may be some issues that keep it from achieving greatness. The 40-50 percent range is where things get a little dicier; I’ve enjoyed films in this range, but they’re probably going to be more polarizing. And if a film hits at 30 percent or below, this is usually an indication it’s probably better to stay at home and wait for the DVD (if at all). However, that *usually* is an important caveat, but more on that later.

It can be tough sometimes to tell just what kind of impact a Rotten Tomatoes score can have on a film, and really, it’s just one piece of a larger puzzle that determines whether a film fails or succeeds. Highly rated films like Tom Cruise’s “Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow” (91 percent) have floundered at the box office, while the critically panned “Suicide Squad” (25 percent) still pulled in a lot of money. Yet rotten scores for recent summer films like “King Arthur” and “The Mummy” certainly didn’t help those films at the box office. And “Wonder Woman’s” glowing score certainly did.

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For me personally, a Rotten Tomatoes score is just one part of my decision of whether or not to see a film, but it definitely plays a role. I decided to skip “King Arthur” due to its low score and spend money on a second viewing of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” instead. Conversely, the high score for “Mad Max: Fury Road” a couple summers ago (97 percent) made me way more pumped to see that movie, even though I actually hadn’t seen any of the other movies in the franchise.

While Rotten Tomatoes is often helpful to get a quick read on a film’s quality, occasionally we can see the dogpile effect, where negative reviews for a film pile up and the movie gets a lower score than it probably deserves. Earlier this summer, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” received just 29 percent, a rating I felt was too unfair for a movie that had its flaws but was still a really fun experience for me as a Pirates fan.

In addition to viewing a film’s Rotten Tomatoes score, I try to read a sampling of reviews to get a deeper idea of what critics thought about a movie. Sometimes I can tell that while critics didn’t love a film, it might be something I’m still interested in, and the things that bothered them may not bother me. I also try to check out the audience score, which can differ from the critics score (audience rating is 67 percent for the new Pirates film).

Overall, I feel Rotten Tomatoes is a fairly good indicator of what’s great (80-90+ percent), good (60-70 percent), okay (40-50 percent), “meh” (30 percent) and awful (20 percent or below), with a few notable exceptions. While sometimes movies do get unfairly trashed, Rotten Tomatoes can be a helpful tool that assists film fans in purchasing their tickets wisely.

So, what do you think? Do you like Rotten Tomatoes? Do you hate it? Do you think the ratings are fair and accurate?

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12 thoughts on “Fresh or rotten: Has Rotten Tomatoes helped or hurt the film industry?

  1. I tend not to check RT ratings until after I’ve seen the movie myself to see how I compare with others. This ties into a guideline I follow where I usually try not to read any reviews on a film unless I’ve already seen it. For me, the main reason I read reviews to to hear someone else’s perception of a film and compare it to mine. Not very often do I read them to determine whether or not to see a film. There are exceptions like If I am up in the air about watching an older movie but almost rarely does it apply to a new release. I mostly prefer to go by the trailers and make my judgement from there. Sometimes I’ve missed out on some good films and other times I’ve seen some duds in the theaters. However, I feel it is better to go with my initial expectations than to adjust them based on what others think.
    Also, side note, I much prefer to reference Rotten Tomatoes ratings over IMDb ratings (I pretty much ignore IMDb ratings) and I usually look at the audience rating over the critics rating.

    • I don’t check IMDb much anymore, either. I like comparing the critics and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes; sometimes I think critics are too harsh on particular films. I’m glad I didn’t skip the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie earlier this year, because I ended up having fun watching it even though it got a rotten rating. And occasionally, a score might be too lenient–I thought the RT score for Alien: Covenant was actually a little too high.

  2. Really appreciate th at-a-glance scores on Rotten Tomatoes – I especially like th way in which it includes snatches of good/bad reviews for me to catch up on
    I like today’s page: Transformers: Th Last Knight – No Score Yet (what do u mean: “Yet”?!) 😉
    Thanks, Ash, for another interesting Post!
    Cheers!

  3. I agree with most of what you’ve said. I’ll usually check RT as well as IMDB rating before watching a movie just to gauge the reaction to but if there’s a movie I’m excited for I’ll go and see it whatever the rating. But a high RT rating definitely gets me more pumped to see it!

    • I’m pretty much the same way! I like that I can use it to quickly find a wide variety of reviews on a movie, as well as get an overall impression of the critical response to a film.

    • As a movie junkie I just find it kind of fun to track the scores and see what the buzz on a movie is. 🙂 It’s not a perfect system but I like that it pulls from many different sources.

      • There are some interesting new movies on the list! I was surprised but pleased to see Mad Max: Fury Road rank so highly. There’s some movies on there I felt should be a little lower (The Dark Knight) and some a little higher (Captain America: Civil War) but overall a great list of movies! 🙂

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