Fandango and Its Owners Are The Ones Who Benefit From A Delayed Score
No two ways about it, hiding the Tomatometer has a specific advantage to the two companies involved. For Fandango, suppressing the score is, by the simple action, maintaining a potential illusion of quality. The company puts the critic score just above the links to buy tickets, and because of the ingrained reading of it, that can influence people's willingness to buy. There's nothing to say they are forcing this choice for this reason, but it helps them all the same; they can avoid having to clarify a film is bad until the last moment, allowing eager potential patrons to buy previews not knowing truly what they're in for.
When we go up the chain, it gets worse. The involvement of WB and Universal in Rotten Tomatoes is typically viewed as distant, but this brings them closer. It's now just a few steps to pick their latest dud as the Tomatometer reveal of the week; we can debate the appeal of a Tom Cruise remake of The Mummy in 2017 forever, but it would have likely fared much better at the box office if it hadn't been christened with a 16% Rotten rating. Of course, like with the score itself, it would be hard for the studios to actively play favorite - you can't hide Justice League then not do the same for Star Wars: The Last Jedi - yet it stands to help two companies that feel the most key victims. Indeed, that this has started on Justice League, a film that has already had a complex, unclear roll-out of critical opinion, suddenly becomes more powerful; it still is probably more the case of it being a loaded release, but some are sure to accuse Warners of trying to shield their product.
This move is going to benefit those producing the content rather than consumers. When you have corporations involved, that's suspect, and at the very least exemplifies a major change to how Rotten Tomatoes presents itself. It feels like an abuse of trust; they're using their controversial position to influence the discussion, and only in a direction that further hurts critical discourse. And this is just the first move; taking in everything we've said, it's starting a move towards a very different sort of site. That's why we need to be making sure this doesn't wind up being centered on just the latest DCEU release.
It's worth stating there are defenses for what's happened - it allows people to go into films unspoiled, moves discussion to reviews rather than numbers - and a stance held by some that, because the Tomatometer is a flawed metric, it doesn't matter. However, none of those are the primary concern for Rotten Tomatoes or the associated companies, nor does simply pointing out the problems with the percentage nullify the impact of something that people evidently take very seriously. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if WB or Universal or Fandango forced this - Rotten Tomatoes have still done it for their own self-serving purpose. When they're such an important part of film discourse, that's worrying.
Considering the backlash to this transparent, cynical decision, it's possible Rotten Tomatoes will reverse this going forward, allowing See It/Skip It try and justify itself on its own merits rather than a damaging gimmick and overall avoiding trying to actively influence the discussion. But, if not, then at the very least this whole fracas has got more people looking at the much better, less cloying aggregator Metacritic.
- Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- Aquaman (2018) release date: Dec 21, 2018