‘Rotten Tomatoes’ has been around for many years now and is subject to much debate. The generated scores (film are deemed as “rotten” or “fresh”) can make or break how your movie performs both with audience opinions and box office takings. However, how reliable of an indicator of quality is the dreaded Tomatometer? And how do audiences themselves respond to this? These are the questions we’ll be tackling as we take a look at Rotten Tomatoes and the effect it has on box office rankings.
In 2016, Rotten Tomatoes was bought by the American company Fandango. Fandango handle a lot of ticket pre-sales for major cinema chains in the US. This means that over the last 2 years, Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango have essentially become a one stop shop for film in one of the biggest markets for film studios. The company itself can generate the buzz for a movie via Rotten Tomatoes and capitalise on that through its ticket pre-sales. So then by extension it’s in Fandango’s interest to put out a good Tomatometer score for movies in order to entice people to buy tickets from them, but what happens when that doesn’t happen?
Take, for instance, The Greatest Showman. The hit musical from the tail-end of last year was a critical misfire from reviewers, garnering a comparatively measly 55% – certified “rotten”. But right next to the critics Tomatometer score is something not many people pay attention to: the audience score at the time of writing sits happily at an impressive 87%. 2018 has been the year of “critic proof” movies and The Greatest Showman is no exception to that, with the film ending it’s run with an impressive £434 million worldwide, almost making it’s entire budget back 5 times over. Hugh Jackman’s lovechild actually had the smallest second week drop in box office takings of any movie. Period. In fact even more interestingly so, the opening weekend of “The Greatest Showman” only grossed 5% of its final box office.
Those final two facts are perhaps the most interesting in assessing the affect a negative Tomatometer score has on a movie. Negative reviews for movies usually end up in a drop in box office takings. For instance, the recent Fantastic Beasts sequel dropped almost 30% into it’s second week after receiving a 40% tomatometer score. That movie currently has a 66% audience score which places it worryingly close to being deemed “rotten” on both accounts.
So, in a time where film performance and opinions seem to be becoming increasingly dominated by critic opinions, there really is no better indicator than a good ol’ audience opinion. This writer, for one, did not take to The Greatest Showman as much as some did, but at the end of the day the numbers speak for themselves. I hope to see many more “critic proof” movies emerge over the coming years. As I’ve always said, film is as individual and as personal as any other art form and deserves the standard of debate that comes with it. So the next time you see a Tomatometer reveal, take it with a pinch of salt, and most importantly, go and decide for yourself!
by Matt Walker