Rotten Tomatoes is an American review aggregation website for film and
television. The company was launched in August 1998 and since January
2010 has been owned by Flixster, which was, in turn, acquired in 2011
Warner Bros. In February 2016,
Rotten Tomatoes and its parent site
Flixster were sold to Comcast's Fandango.
Warner Bros. retained a
minority stake in the merged entities, including Fandango. From
2007 to 2017, the website's editor-in-chief was Matt Atchity, who left
in July 2017 to join The Young Turks. The name "Rotten Tomatoes"
derives from the practice of audiences throwing rotten tomatoes when
disapproving of a poor stage performance.
From early 2008 to September 2010, Current Television aired the weekly
Rotten Tomatoes Show, featuring hosts and material from the
website. A shorter segment was incorporated into the weekly show
InfoMania, which ended in 2011. In September 2013, the website
introduced "TV Zone", a section for reviewing scripted TV shows.
2.1 Tomatometer critic aggregate score
2.2 Critics Consensus
2.3 Audience Score and reviews
2.4 Localized versions
3 Studios impact
5 See also
7 External links
Logo used from 2001 to 2018
Rotten Tomatoes was launched on August 12, 1998, as a spare-time
project by Senh Duong. His goal in creating
Rotten Tomatoes was "to
create a site where people can get access to reviews from a variety of
critics in the U.S." As a fan of Jackie Chan's, Duong was inspired
to create the website after collecting all the reviews of Chan's
movies as they were being published in the United States. The first
movie whose reviews were featured on
Rotten Tomatoes was Your Friends
& Neighbors (1998). The website was an immediate success,
receiving mentions by Netscape, Yahoo!, and
USA Today within the first
week of its launch; it attracted "600–1000 daily unique visitors" as
a result.
Duong teamed up with
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley classmates
Patrick Y. Lee and Stephen Wang, his former partners at the Berkeley,
California-based web design firm Design Reactor, to pursue Rotten
Tomatoes on a full-time basis. They officially launched it on April 1,
In June 2004,
IGN Entertainment acquired
Rotten Tomatoes for an
undisclosed sum. In September 2005,
IGN was bought by News Corp's
Fox Interactive Media. In January 2010,
IGN sold the website to
Flixster. The combined reach of both companies is 30 million
unique visitors a month across all different platforms, according to
the companies. In May 2011,
Flixster was acquired by Warner
In early 2009, Current Television launched the televised version of
the web review site, The
Rotten Tomatoes Show. It was hosted by Brett
Ellen Fox and written by Mark Ganek. The show aired every
Thursday at 10:30 EST on the
Current TV network. The last episode
aired on September 16, 2010. It returned as a much shorter segment of
InfoMania, a satirical news show that ended in 2011.
By late 2009, the website was designed to enable
Rotten Tomatoes users
to create and join groups to discuss various aspects of film. One
group, "The Golden Oyster Awards", accepted votes of members for
various awards, spoofing the better-known Oscars or Golden Globes.
Flixster bought the company, they disbanded the groups,
announcing: "The Groups area has been discontinued to pave the way for
new community features coming soon. In the meantime, please use the
Forums to continue your conversations about your favorite movie
As of February 2011, new community features have been added and others
removed. For example, users can no longer sort films by Fresh Ratings
from Rotten Ratings, and vice versa. On September 17, 2013, a section
devoted to scripted television series, called "TV Zone", was created
as a subsection of the website.
In February 2016,
Rotten Tomatoes and its parent site
sold to Comcast's Fandango.
Warner Bros retained a minority stake in
the merged entities, including Fandango.
On November 1, 2017, the site launched a new web series on Facebook,
See It/Skip It, hosted by Jacqueline Coley and Segun Oduolowu.
In March 2018, the site announced its new design, icons and logo for
the first time in 19 years at the SXSW.
Rotten Tomatoes is a top 1000 site, placing around #400 globally and
top 150 for the US only, according to website ranker Alexa.
Monthly unique visitors to the rottentomatoes.com domain is 26M global
(14.4M US) according to audience measurement service Quantcast.
Tomatometer critic aggregate score
Rotten Tomatoes staff first collect online reviews from writers who
are certified members of various writing guilds or film
critic-associations. To be accepted as a critic on the website, a
critic's original reviews must garner a specific number of "likes"
from users. Those classified as "Top Critics" generally write for
major newspapers. The staff determine for each review whether it is
positive ("fresh", marked by a small icon of a red tomato) or negative
("rotten", marked by a small icon of a green splattered tomato). Staff
assessment is needed as some reviews assign a qualitative assessment
rather than a numeric rating.
The website keeps track of all of the reviews counted for each film
and the percentage of positive reviews is calculated. Major, recently
released films can attract up to 300 reviews. If the positive reviews
make up 60% or more, the film is considered "fresh", in that a
supermajority of the reviewers approve of the film. If the positive
reviews are less than 60%, the film is considered "rotten". An average
score on a 0 to 10 scale is also calculated. With each review, a short
excerpt of the review is quoted that also serves a hyperlink to the
complete review essay for anyone interested to read the critic's full
thoughts on the subject.
"Top Critics", such as
Roger Ebert (deceased), Desson Thomson, Stephen
Hunter, Owen Gleiberman, Lisa Schwarzbaum,
Peter Travers and Michael
Phillips are identified in a sub-listing that calculates their reviews
separately. Their opinions are also included in the general rating.
When there are sufficient reviews, the staff creates and posts a
consensus statement to express the general reasons for the collective
opinion of the film.
This rating is indicated by an equivalent icon at the film listing, to
give the reader a one-glance look at the general critical opinion
about the work. The "Certified Fresh" seal is reserved for movies that
satisfy two criteria: a "Tomatometer" of 75% or better and at least 40
reviews (for limited release movies, otherwise 80) from
"Tomatometer"-Critics (including 5 Top Critics). Films earning this
status will keep it unless the positive critical percentage drops
below 70%. Films with 100% positive ratings but fewer than
required reviews may not receive the "Certified Fresh" seal.
Certified Fresh. Wide-release films with a score of 75% or higher that
are reviewed by at least 80 critics, of which 5 are "Top Critics", are
given this seal. The "Certified Fresh" seal remains until the score
drops below 70%. Films with limited releases require only 40
reviews (including 5 from "Top Critics") to qualify for this seal.
Fresh. Films with a score of 60% or higher that do not meet the
requirements for the "Certified Fresh" seal.
Rotten. Films with a score of 0–59% receive this seal.
In the year 2000,
Rotten Tomatoes announced the RT Awards honoring the
best-reviewed films of the year according to the website's rating
system. This was later renamed the Golden
Tomato Awards. The
nominees and winners are announced on the website, although there is
no actual awards ceremony.
The films are divided into wide release and limited release
categories. Limited releases are defined as opening in 599 or less
theaters at initial release. Platform releases, movies initially
released under 600 theaters but later receiving wider distribution,
fall under this definition. Any film opening in more than 600 theaters
is considered wide release. There are also two categories purely
for British and Australian films. The "User"-category represents the
highest rated film among users, and the "Mouldy"-award represents the
worst-reviewed films of the year. A movie must have 40 (originally 20)
or more rated reviews to be considered for domestic categories. It
must have 500 or more user ratings to be considered for the
Films are further classified based on film genre. Each movie is
eligible in only one genre, aside from non-English films, which can be
included in both their genre and the respective "Foreign" category.
Once a film is considered eligible, its "votes" are counted. Each
critic from the website's list gets one vote (as determined by their
review), all weighted equally. Because reviews are continually added,
manually and otherwise, a cutoff date at which new reviews are not
counted toward the Golden
Tomato awards is initiated each year,
usually the first of the new year. Reviews without ratings are not
counted toward the results of the Golden
Each movie features a brief summary of the reviews used in that
entry's Tomatometer aggregate score. These are written by Jeff Giles,
a longtime author for the site.
Audience Score and reviews
Positive and negative audience score icons
Each movie features a "user average", which calculates the percentage
of registered users who have rated the film positively on a 5-star
scale, similar to calculation of recognized critics' reviews.
Localized versions of the site available in the United Kingdom, India,
Australia were discontinued following the acquisition of Rotten
Tomatoes by Fandango. The Mexican version of the site (Tomatazos)
Rotten Tomatoes API (Application Program Interface) provides
limited access to critic and audience ratings and reviews, allowing
developers to incorporate
Rotten Tomatoes data on other websites. The
free service is intended for use in the US only; permission is
required for use elsewhere.
Major Hollywood studios have grown to see
Rotten Tomatoes as a threat
to their marketing. In 2017 several blockbuster films like Pirates of
the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Baywatch and The Mummy were
projected to open to a respective $90 million, $50 million and $45
million, but ended up debuting with $62.6 million, $23.1 million and
$31.6 million. Rotten Tomatoes, which gave the films low scores of
30%, 19% and 16%, respectively, was faulted for undermining them. That
same summer, films like Wonder Woman (92%) and Spider-Man: Homecoming
(92%) received high scores and opened on par or exceeded expectations
with their $100+ million trackings.
As result of this concern,
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox commissioned a 2015 study,
Rotten Tomatoes and Box Office", that stated the website
combined with social media was going to be an increasingly serious
complication for the film business: "The power of
Rotten Tomatoes and
fast-breaking word of mouth will only get stronger. Many Millennials
and even Gen X-ers now vet every single purchase through the Internet,
whether it's restaurants, video games, make-up, consumer electronics
or movies. As they get older and comprise an even larger share of
total moviegoers, this behavior is unlikely to change". Other
studios have commissioned a number of studies on the subject, with
them finding that seven out of 10 people said they would be less
interested in seeing a film if the
Rotten Tomatoes score was 0-25, and
that the site has the most influence on people 25 and younger.
The scores have reached a level of online ubiquity which film
companies have found threatening. For instance, the scores are
regularly posted in
Google search results for films so reviewed.
Furthermore, the scores are prominently featured in Fandango's popular
ticket purchasing website and its mobile app, Flixster. This led to
complaints that the scores, especially "rotten" ones, are prone to
affect the purchasing decisions of the public, as in saying in so many
words: "You are an idiot if you pay to see this movie".
Some studios have suggested embargoing or cancelling early critic
screenings in a response to poor reviews prior to a film's release
affecting pre-sales and opening weekend numbers. In July 2017,
Sony embargoed critic reviews for
The Emoji Movie
The Emoji Movie until mid-day the
Thursday before its release. The film ended up with a 9% rating
(including 0% after the first 25 reviews), but still opened to $24
million, on par with projections. Josh Greenstein, Sony Pictures
president of worldwide marketing and distribution, said: "The Emoji
Movie was built for people under 18 ... so we wanted to give the movie
its best chance. What other wide release with a score under 8 percent
has opened north of $20 million? I don't think there is one".
Warner Bros. also did not do critic pre-screenings for The
House, which ended up with a 16% rating, until the day of its release,
but it still opened to just $8.7 million, the lowest of star Will
That marketing tactic can backfire, and has drawn the vocal disgust of
influential critics such as Roger Ebert, who was prone to derisively
condemn such moves, with gestures such as "The Wagging Finger of
Shame", on At the Movies. Furthermore, the very nature of
withholding reviews can draw early conclusions from the public that
the film is of poor quality because of that marketing tactic.
Jon Penn of the National Research Group (NRG) noted that the website
is an increasingly serious interference to movie marketing:
“Moviegoers love trailers. They pay attention to the TV spots. But
Rotten Tomatoes is like the truth serum on the entire [promotional]
campaign: are all the things you're telling me about the movie true or
In January 2010, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the New
York Film Critics Circle, its chairman
Armond White cited Rotten
Tomatoes in particular and film review aggregators in general as
examples of how "the Internet takes revenge on individual
expression". He said they work by "dumping reviewers onto one
website and assigning spurious percentage-enthusiasm points to the
discrete reviews". According to White, such websites "offer
consensus as a substitute for assessment". Director and producer
Brett Ratner has criticized the website for "reducing hundreds of
reviews culled from print and online sources into a popularized
aggregate score", and feels it is the "worst thing that we have in
today's movie culture". Writer Max Landis, following his film
Victor Frankenstein receiving an approval rating of 24% on the site,
wrote that the site "breaks down entire reviews into just the word
'yes' or 'no', making criticism binary in a destructive arbitrary
way", which novelist and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith
By contrast, others have noted that filmmakers have only themselves to
blame if film critics dismiss their films, causing
Rotten Tomatoes to
give their product a bad score. As one independent film distributor
marketing executive noted, "To me, it's a ridiculous argument that
Rotten Tomatoes is the problem ... make a good movie!". ComScore's
Paul Dergarabedian had similar comments, saying: "The best way for
studios to combat the '
Rotten Tomatoes Effect' is to make better
movies, plain and simple".
Rotten Tomatoes deliberately withheld the critic score for Justice
League based on early reviews until the premiere of its See It/Skip It
episode on the Thursday before its release. Some critics viewed the
move as a ploy to promote the web series, but some argued that the
move was a deliberate conflict of interest on account of Warner Bros.'
ownership of the film and Rotten Tomatoes, and the tepid critical
reception to the
DC Extended Universe
DC Extended Universe films, barring Wonder Woman.
Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
List of films with a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes
List of films with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes
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