Movie studios fear bad Rotten Tomatoes scores, are trying to thwart the Tomatometer


Bad reviews can potentially hurt a movie’s box office in the same way that good reviews can potentially get more butts in the seats. As more and more people turn to Rotten Tomatoes to see what the critical consensus is on a movie, film studios are trying to find ways around the Tomatometer. Usually that means embargoes that prevent critics from publishing reviews on a film until a certain date.

As The Hollywood Reporter noted today, film studios are being extra-conscious about embargo schedules. The hope is that delaying reviews will delay the Tomatometer score, maximizing the opening weekend box office for a really crummy movie. In the case of The Emoji Movie (6% on RT, 1/100 here at Flixist), embargoes were in place until midday on July 27th, the day before the film’s release. For The Mummy (16% on RT, 50/100 here at Flixist), reviews were embargoed until the Wednesday before release.

The strategy continues with the problem-plagued adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. The movie comes out Friday, but reviews are embargoed until later tonight. For perspective, when studios sense they have a hit or a critical darling on their hands, they may allow reviews to be published weeks before release to generate positive buzz.

So I guess studios could try to make better movies or somethi– Nah.

Rotten Tomatoes has its issues, obviously. The Tomatometer score offers a simple up-or-down recommendation, much like a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. A just-okay movie that gets a bunch of mixed-positive reviews can score high on the Tomatometer, while a divisive movie may have a lower fresh percentage even if it garners many rave reviews. Metacritic, another review aggregation website, offers a better sense of critical opinion and consensus, but it doesn’t have as much power as the mighty Tomatometer.

And yet Rotten Tomatoes can at least serve as a starting point when figuring out what to see. Film studios aren’t shy to use it as a marketing tool either. (Note all the “Certified Fresh” stickers for certain movie ads and DVD/Blu-ray releases, for instance.) Some movies are somewhat critic-proof as well. Up until the hot garbage of Transformers: The Last Knight, that was certainly the case with the Transformers franchise.

This all makes me wonder if studios will continue having late embargoes in place for movies they know are bombs. Or perhaps some films may not be screened for critics. This happens every now and then, though it’s generally not the case with tentpole films or major blockbusters.

Or, you know, movie studios could stop greenlighting trash like The Emoji Movie, CHiPs, and Baywatch.

Nah, who am I kidding? Get ready for a Dukes of Hazzard reboot and a Knightrider adaptation, you Minion-loving rubes. I don’t know if those are real, but we’re getting a Fruit Ninja movie, so anything awful is possible.

[via THR]
Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.