Rotten Tomatoes announced new changes to their Audience Score adding Verified Ratings and Reviews. This new change comes after the website, which is owned by Comcast’s Fandango, removed their “Want to See” score and prevented individuals from commenting on movies that had not yet been released to theaters.
Rotten Tomatoes made the announcement about the changes in a blog post:
“Rotten Tomatoes now features an Audience Score made up of ratings from users we’ve confirmed bought tickets to the movie – we’re calling them “Verified Ratings.” We’re also tagging written reviews from users we can confirm purchased tickets to a movie as “Verified” reviews.”
However, they do note that non-Verified ratings will still be available. However, those non-verified ratings will not be prominently displayed on the website anymore. Instead, you will have to toggle the “More Info” button found below the Tomatometer and Verified Audience Score.
From there, you then have to click the “All Audience” button below the Audience Score.
They will also be tagging certain users as Verified. As of this writing, only users who purchase tickets through Fandango will be verified. However, they do indicate that others have signed up to participate.
“At launch, users can verify ticket purchases through Fandango; AMC Theaters, Regal Cinemas, and Cinemark have signed up to participate in our verification program, and we plan to introduce other ticket providers as well.”
Rotten Tomatoes explains how they are verifying users, “Users who want to verify their ratings and reviews simply choose where they bought their ticket when leaving their rating and/or review. If we can match their Rotten Tomatoes account to the account used to buy their ticket, their rating and/or review will be verified.”
However, it’s unclear how exactly they are matching accounts. The most obvious would be if you have your Rotten Tomatoes login synced with a Fandango account. However, aside from that it’s unclear.
When users submit a review they are given a drop down where they can choose where they purchased their ticket. The current options include Fandango, Bought Somewhere Else, AMC, Cinemark, and Regal. However, you can only actually select Fandango and Bought Somewhere Else at this time.
If you choose Fandango you get the following message.
If you choose “Bought Somewhere Else” you get the below message.
They do not provide any information on how they plan to verify reviews for television shows or other forms of media.
Rotten Tomatoes explains why they made these changes:
“It’s about giving fans the most useful tools possible when making their entertainment decisions.”
“We believe an Audience Score made up of these Verified Ratings is the most trustworthy measure of user sentiment we can offer right now – one that gives entertainment fans a genuine audience assessment of a movie they’re considering watching, and one which puts significant roadblocks in front of bad actors who would seek to manipulate the Audience Score.”
They also note that more changes will be coming down the pipeline.
“Today is another phase in a rollout of changes we’re making to our Audience Score, user ratings, and user reviews. As we’ve mentioned, we’re working on bringing other ticket providers into our verification system, as well as finding ways we can verify ratings and reviews for movies that are not theatrically released, for TV series, and for streaming titles. And there will be further enhancements to come.
We’ll be announcing these changes right here in the product blog, and we welcome your feedback and suggestions in the comments section below. We’ll take your thoughts and ideas into consideration as we continue to evolve our recommendation tools.”
While Rotten Tomatoes appears to be making changes to prevent “bad actors” in their Audience Score, they do not address the admitted practice of a number of critics writing fake reviews in order to provide favorable coverage for certain movies and movie studios.
SyFy Wire’s Dany Roth admitted “everybody in our industry” plays softball.
“Here’s the actual reality. Here’s where we actually are in the industry if you want to talk about quote access media. Every single person that wants to have access to things early, that wants to get access to things so that traffic is drawn to their site will on occasion. Everybody at this podcast, everybody in our industry occasionally has to play softball, occasionally has to look the other way a little bit. Everybody has to do it. In the sense that I hated a movie, but I won’t say that I hated a movie. Or an actor behaved a sort of way, and you don’t want to put it out there that that happened.”
SyFy Wire’s Contributing Editor Karama Horne would add, “Right, because you might not get the next review.”
Roth concludes, “To some degree everybody in our industry that is part of this quote on quote access media has to decide which battles they want to pick. Which of the ones where my voice is the one that has to get said.”
In fact, that split between audiences and critics was visualized in a data graph from Information Is Beautiful.
And while Rotten Tomatoes touts they have built trust, it has been severely questioned in recent months. The website deleted over 50,000 Captain Marvel reviews claiming it was due to a “bug.”
Their move to prevent comments on movies before it has opened in theaters was heavily criticized. Popular YouTube personality TheQuartering also criticized the fact they don’t allow negative feedback on movies that have not been released in theaters.
Rotten Tomatoes changes were heralded by Gizmodo who claim it was made “to protect against whiny man-babies” referencing Rian Johnson’s description of Star Wars fans who did not like his Star Wars: The Last Jedi movie.
What do you think of these changes? Is this really just an evolution of change as the editorial from Rotten Tomatoes claims? Or is this just another gatekeeping tool in the making? Let me know your thoughts!