This summer’s weak box office results are giving studios another opportunity to smack around one of their favorite targets: The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Bad scores there are derided by studios as intentionally harmful, designed to take down the kinds of movies that are “made for fans, not critics” and cast their product in a bad light. This conversation over the role of RT comes up once every couple years, usually in the wake of a string of poorly-reviewed movies whose failure studios blame on critics and not the crap they deliver to theaters.
So it was interesting when I was greeted the other day by a survey that seemed to be geared specifically toward this topic.
The survey was on a website where I was trying to read a story. Instead of an interstitial ad, the survey blocked my access and would only let me continue if I completed it. It’s a tactic to gain audience insights as opposed to just hammering them with an ad message.
The questions asked me about The Emoji Movie. Had I seen it? Where had I seen trailers? Why did I not see it? What was my impression based on the marketing? That sort of thing.
Then it got very specific. Was I aware of the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score? Had I been influenced by that score? How likely was I to base my moviegoing decisions on RT scores?
I don’t know if this is Sony running these ad surveys or if it’s some other party, but it’s certain someone is gathering information. I’m fully expecting to see a study released in the next couple of months that touts the findings of a survey that measures the impact of RT scores on likelihood to go see a movie.
The thing is, Hollywood marketers already know, or at least believe, Rotten Tomatoes scores can have a positive influence. The websites for recent movies like La La Land, A Monster Calls and others have all featured graphics or badges touting the high scores those movies have received in advance of release. So there’s the assumption that it can influence the decision to see a movie, or at least reinforce and solidify existing predilections. But scores are dismissed as harmful when they’re more negative. You can’t have it both ways.
Have you seen one of these surveys out in the wild yet?