By Hayden Welty ‘19
Over the summer of 2016, certain movie review aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes have been blamed for manipulating a movie’s reputation as good or bad to a point where that film ends up having poor opening weekends at the box office, ruining its financial viability.
Movies like “Ghostbusters” have been plastered across all forms media and labeled as “rip-offs” or a waste of time. As a result, box office sales plummeted, and more and more movies are losing money.
Overall, ticket sales are down roughly 10 percent. And headlines like “2016 Is on Track to Be Hollywood’s Worst Year for Ticket Sales in a Century” from Vanity Fair and “Box Office Meltdown: Hollywood Races to Win Back Summer Crowds” from Variety have dominated the media.
To be honest, no single critic can make or break a movie anymore. Only a collection of thousands of professional and amateur critics together can.
Online rating aggregators have become a serious business: Movies generate over $10 billion annually at the U.S. box office, and these sites possess an uncanny ability to manipulate that tally.
Aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and IMDb each have their a unique way of reviewing films; and they each have their own set of criteria and scales for rating and reviewing movies.
Look, when it comes to film aggregators, they can be very useful sites that effectively summarize the general public’s opinion of a film, helping inform you about the quality of a movie you could potentially see. But it is also important to recognize that these sites cannot boil down the opinions of all the critics out there to a number.
The public needs to realize these sites are not completely accurate.
It’s not fair to the filmmaker if the moviegoer bases their viewing decision purely on a site who have a vested interest in either praising or bashing a film.
One example of this is Fandango, a company that simultaneously rates films and sells tickets. Investigations from sites like Fivethirtyeight.com have shown that Fandango inflates their ratings by rounding the rating up on a consistent basis when it shouldn’t be rounded, which supposedly makes their viewers more likely to buy tickets and see the movie.
At the end of the day, whether a movie is good or bad is a very personal question, and these sites perpetuate the idea that there is a finite answer to that question. It looks like math, but it’s not; Moviegoing is about as subjective an experience we can have.
So I would encourage you to, of course, take the other people’s opinions into account, but also make decisions based on what you want to do as well.