Rotten Tomatoes is allegedly rigged according to new report from NY Magazine

Well, it seems that the cat’s out of the bag regarding Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s not a pretty picture. In a recent exposé by New York Magazine, the popular movie review aggregation site’s credibility has taken a hit. The article highlights a disturbing trend where PR companies, like Bunker 15, pay critics for positive reviews to manipulate a film’s Rotten Tomatoes score.

For instance, the case of the movie “Ophelia” is particularly illuminating. When this feminist retelling of Hamlet received a disappointing 46 percent on Rotten Tomatoes due to early negative reviews, Bunker 15 sprang into action. Instead of targeting top-tier critics, they recruited lesser-known reviewers and reportedly paid them $50 or more for each review. This shady practice not only raises ethical concerns but also undermines the integrity of Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings.

What’s even more troubling is the suggestion that these paid critics were encouraged not to publish negative reviews on their usual platforms but rather quarantine them on obscure blogs, effectively ensuring that Rotten Tomatoes only saw positive reviews. This manipulation caused “Ophelia’s” score to flip from rotten to fresh, ultimately leading to its acquisition by a U.S. distributor.

This revelation sheds light on the murky waters of film promotion and underscores the power that Rotten Tomatoes wields in the industry. Filmmakers and studios have recognized that a high Tomatometer score can make or break a movie, influencing not only audience perception but also box office performance.

However, Rotten Tomatoes’ scoring system itself is far from perfect. It boils down reviews into a binary positive or negative classification, disregarding nuances and levels of enthusiasm. This simplistic approach means that a film can achieve a perfect 100 percent score with just passing grades. It fails to account for the distinction between extremely positive and slightly positive reviews, which can significantly affect how a movie is perceived.

Furthermore, Rotten Tomatoes often calculates scores based on a limited number of reviews, sometimes as few as five, which can lead to skewed ratings and manipulated outcomes. Studios have learned to exploit this by strategically timing their screenings and embargoes to ensure an initially high score that boosts early ticket sales and word of mouth.

In recent years, Rotten Tomatoes has attempted to address issues of diversity in its critics’ pool by welcoming more freelance and self-publishing critics, especially those from underrepresented groups. While this is a step in the right direction, it may have inadvertently contributed to the site becoming even more challenging on art-house movies, which often receive lower scores.

The New York Magazine article reveals a disconcerting truth about Rotten Tomatoes and its vulnerability to manipulation. While it remains a significant factor in the film industry, viewers are increasingly developing their own criteria for choosing movies. The Tomatometer score is just one variable in the equation, and its influence may not be as significant as it once was. As one filmmaker put it, people might be more inclined to see a movie with a lower score if the subject matter interests them, rather than relying solely on Rotten Tomatoes’ rating. Perhaps it’s time for audiences to trust their own judgment and read reviews from a variety of sources before deciding what to watch.

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