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Rotten Tomatoes Changing Their Audience Score to Increase User Transparency

Rotten Tomatoes has revealed plans to make their Audience Score a little more robust from review bombs and other false reviews.

Review bombing has become an ever more pressing issue in the cinematic and video game industries. Huge blockbusters, some of our favorite TV shows, and of course almost every video game that’s released in the last year or two have all fallen victim to this childish tactic. In response, Rotten Tomatoes is bringing “verified reviews and ratings” to their audience score system.

Verified ratings and reviews are audience reviews posted from people that Fandango has confirmed have bought tickets to the film they’re commenting on. The update lets Rotten Tomatoes tag “written reviews from users we can confirm purchased tickets.” Now the overall audience score for any film will be filtered through this system, so viewers will hopefully feel more confident in what they’re reading. Those that wish to submit these verified purchases can only do so through Fandango right now, though they claim that other theater chains have also signed up to participate.

In the coming months Cinemark, AMC Theaters, and Regal Cinemas will also be included in these verified ticket purchases, but while their “clearance” is straightened out,  Fandango will be the only source for these verified reviews. They claim this is not an effort to drive up ticket sales, but a matter that needs to be handled swiftly, hence why they aren’t waiting for more sites to be included. The inclusion of these verified ticket sales is to answer the call for site visitors to have more transparency in the Rotten Tomatoes review process, not inflate ticket sales. “It’s about scale and expediency as we kick off the summer season of movies,” said chief marketing officer Lori Pantel.

For the time being, that means the site’s scores will be primarily from authenticated ticket-buyers in the U.S. Fandango is using this as an opportunity to “increase confidence in the Audience Score,” according to the company’s VP of product, Greg Ferris.

“We think this provides more information, more transparency and more consumer confidence around the score itself,” Ferris stated. He went on to say that, “The byproduct of dissuading bad actors from influencing fan sentiment is certainly part of this.”

Rotten Tomatoes is no stranger to “review bombing”. Recent films like Black Panther and Star Wars: The Last Jedi have had thousands of negative reviews added to their scores because people were offended by a director’s choice of how he portrayed issues like sex or race. Preventing trolls from manipulating a movie’s score before it releases doesn’t necessarily affect their box office performance, but it certainly could make some hesitate to go to see it.

Captain Marvel had a huge smear campaign against it on YouTube prior to its release because of some comments made by the film’s star, Brie Larson. As a preventative measure, Rotten Tomatoes stopped users from leaving any comments before the film opened in theaters. Again, as a way for visitors to have a more honest, transparent score to go off of.

These changes are being rolled out immediately. Films opening Friday, May 24 will be some of the first to see this change in Audience Ratings. Going forward, all users will be required to confirm if they purchased a ticket before their scores are counted towards the film’s Audience Score. Scores for movies that have already released will not be affected by these changes, however.

That isn’t to say all site visitors can’t continue to review movies. Their scores will only be shown if a visitor clicks the “all audience” score, which shows verified reviews as well as unconfirmed ticket purchaser reviews. Verified reviews will have a “verified” badge associated with them, again so visitors know which is which.

TV Shows will not be receiving this update yet, meaning any registered user can still leave whatever score and review they like.

Fandango is responding to user’s critiques regarding their Tomatometer as well. Movies and TV Shows will now have a broader reviewers pool that scores are drawn from. 200 new critics were added this past August in fact, expanding the site’s reflection of female and other underrepresented voices. Since then, they have added another 500 new “Tomatometer-approved” critics, bringing their overall critics number to around 4,500 verified publications.

These new changes are effective immediately and will be implemented across all of Rotten Tomatoes’ movie pages.

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