Rotten Tomatoes, the aggregate review site, has been around for years, but it has been in the press quite a bit these past few months. The major studios have been increasingly vocal with their feeling that bad reviews are severely impacting box office. While a bad review from one critic is usually nothing to get upset about, Rotten Tomatoes allows people to see many reviews at a time. They also average those reviews out; if less than 60% of a film’s reviews are positive, then it is stamped Rotten.
Some of the more high profile failures this year have received very low scores on RT and the subject is fresh once again, thanks to this weekend’s release of Sony’s THE DARK TOWER. Plagued by stories of re-shoots and post-production strife, the movie was held back from critics until two days before opening. Reviews are still coming in, but the majority have been quite negative. The film is currently projected to gross $20-30 million this weekend; it will be interesting to see if it falls below that estimate.
Things used to be different when it came to reviews. Outside of Siskel & Ebert on TV, the only movie review most people saw was the critic in their local paper. Now in this age of constant rushing, many people are not taking the time to read reviews and are just glancing at RT’s all-or-nothing scale of Rotten vs Fresh. Studios feel that is shortchanging the movies because it discourages people from giving them a chance.
However, holding films back from critics does not seem to be the solution. Last weekend’s THE EMOJI MOVIE (also from Sony) got extremely negative reviews, but managed to hit its projection, but earlier in the summer, Warner Brothers did not screen THE HOUSE for critics at all and it still bombed. It all just leaves one thinking that the easiest solution would be to just make better movies.