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Rotten Tomatoes Scores Don't Correlate To Box Office Success or Woes, Research Shows (polygon.com) 106

Depending on who you ask, Rotten Tomatoes is the reason some movies don't perform at the box office. From a report: Countless movie executives, including producers, have told Deadline and the New York Times that the number atop a movie's page on Rotten Tomatoes signifying whether the majority of critics enjoyed or disliked a movie rules the box office. Director Brett Ratner was quoted as saying "I think it's the destruction of our business" while others have called for its demise. According to research conducted by Yves Bergquist, director of the Data & Analytics Project at USC's Entertainment Technology Center, that's not correct. Bergquist collected data from 150 movies this year that made more than $1 million at the box office. Using those Box Office Mojo numbers and comparing them to the critic and audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, Bergquist then "looked at [the] correlation between scores and financial performance" to determine if there was a linear line that could be drawn between low scores and bad box office performance. Or, more simply, did a lower "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes equate to box office woes? The short answer is no, it didn't. Bergquist's findings confirmed that of the 150 movies surveyed, there was only a 12 percent correlation between a movie receiving a bad score and not performing well at the box office. Summer films saw even less of a correlation, with seven percent of lower-scored movies not performing at the box office.
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Rotten Tomatoes Scores Don't Correlate To Box Office Success or Woes, Research Shows

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  • by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2017 @11:04AM (#55181211)
    Critical success doesn't equal commercial success, but if your movie fails commercially, blaming rotten tomatoes makes for a convenient scapegoat.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo&world3,net> on Tuesday September 12, 2017 @11:07AM (#55181247) Homepage Journal

      Also, user scores don't correlate to success either. At best only people who could be bothered will actually give an opinion, and then their motivation for rating the movie is often unrelated to its quality (e.g. they dislike the cast or the director).

      The standard advice applies. Find a critic who seems to like the same stuff as you, and follow them.

      • I go with the http://www.spiegel.de/ [spiegel.de] critics.
        It is super simple:
        bad critcs: go watch the movie, it is likely ok
        good critics: avoid it as hell, it is probaly the worst waste of money ever
        suoer good critics: try it, might be a matter of taste, can be good or not so good, but is usually not really bad

        On the other hand the kast decade I nadically avoided every movie except Lord of the Rings, and watched The expendabkes in youtube. How old is the first Pirates of the Carebean movie?

        I probbaly watch that blond fi

      • One of the first sites I ran was an infomercial product review website. One of the lessons I got out of that site was that people tended to review products if they really hated them or if they really liked them - with the former outweighing the latter. People don't tend to post reviews for "it was a decent product that fit my need, but there was nothing exceptional about it." So you will often get a bunch of 1 star reviews on what might be a decent product or 5 star reviews on what might be a so-so product.

        • by one particular product that, when I last checked, was still on the market.

          The Cornballer?

          • No, it was Epil-Stop. The product claimed to remove hair painlessly. Some users reported chemical burns. The stories all seemed similar. "I put it on, felt a burning sensation that got painful, tried to wash it off and it got worse." One person sent me photos of their burns. I looked up information on the products' ingredients on various sites that track chemical properties. Some of the chemicals in Epil-Stop said they reacted with water. So, of course, trying to wash the product off your skin would cause a

      • That's good advice. I've always enjoyed comedies, and - perhaps because humor is so subjective - I've noticed that comedies rarely have a good score upon release. I remember when Airplane! would come on TV in the early 80s and the guide had it as 3 stars. Now that it's a cult-classic, it fetches a 7.8 on IMDB and a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.

    • In all the time I've been reading SlashDot, this is the first time I have ever seen the first post get a 5: Insightful.
      Congratulations!
    • if your movie fails commercially, blaming rotten tomatoes makes for a convenient scapegoat.

      Well, that and piracy.

      The same thing is happening in politics also. A book just came out on the subject. Passing blame is ubiquitous.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "Never accept blame. Make someone else pay for your mistakes." That's the motto of sociopaths.

        As for the book What Happened? by Hillary Clinton.... I heard it elsewhere but it can't be said enough, the book's title and author should be: What Happened? Hillary Clinton by Everyone.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      While I agree, we have to be careful about the limits of statistical inference. Just because Rotten Tomatoes scores in aggregate don't affect industry-wide box office receipts very much doesn't mean that Rotten Tomatoes never makes or breaks a movie.

      This is generally the case: averages and correlations over large, inhomogeneous event sets may not tell the story accurately for every event in the set. E.g., the US as a whole has long since recovered from the Great Recession, but certain areas (specifically c

    • Indeed. Hollywood loves to play the blame game. Why is it always ...

      * Piracy
      * Social Media and Internet review sites ... that are blamed for commercial "failures".

      Here's a fucking radical idea:

      * Stop remaking the same fucking movies [wikipedia.org] (List of Film Remakes)
      * Stop blowing your shitty movie budget on VFX (Gods of Egypt (2016) [imdb.com]
      * Stop insulting your audience's intelligence by doing dumb shit [youtube.com] (Everything Wrong With Prometheus In 4 Minutes Or Less)
      * Stop the mindless violence [youtube.com] (Everything Wrong With John Wick Chapte

  • by TimothyHollins ( 4720957 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2017 @11:06AM (#55181237)

    Perhaps the difference is found in what Ratner considers a success and what Bergquist considers a success?
    If you need a $2 billion revenue to consider a movie successful, then it probably correlates quite well to the Rotten Tomatoes score.

    • Actually, it doesn't. Even if you define success as 'Has 2 billion revenue' you'll find that the three films that met the criterion have 84%, 88% and 92% score. A high one to be sure, but then again you have Dunkirk with a 93% and $500 million, Arrival (94%, $200 million) and Moonlight (98%, 65 million) just to mention recent examples. There's simply no way to correlate movie revenue with RT score.

      • Normalize for budget. If you follow the links, the study shows a strong correlation (0.8) between production budget and box office gross. Your three examples are consistent with that trend; Moonlight having the lowest production budget and Dunkirk having the highest.
        • Did not follow the links (this is still ./ right ;-)) And I don't disagree at all with your interpretation, but notice how "RT Score" is completely absent from it.
          My contention is that no matter how you define "Box Office Success", you won't find a correlation between it and the score of RT; which does not mean that there is no correlation with other variables.

          • Its not your fault because the summary is wrong, too, but there is a strong correlation (p=0.27-0.4, depending on year) between box office gross and RT scores. But there are other factors that are more strongly correlated, such as production budget and audience score.

            https://medium.com/@ybergquist... [medium.com]

        • Perhaps it has to do with marketing budget more than quality of the film, if few people know about few people see it.

  • by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2017 @11:13AM (#55181283)
    I don't think you can count Rotten Tomotoes ratings as scientific. There is no validation that the reviewer actually SAW the movie. Also, people who SAW the movie, and liked it, aren't forced to review it. Finally, not every moviegoer uses Rotten Tomotoes ratings to determine if they want to see a movie or not.

    So, for Hollywood to base its entire success on RT ratings, is stupid.
    • by swb ( 14022 )

      Who makes up the critics counted for RT scores?

      I'd like to see more analytics done to determine if there are "key critics" who are capable of swinging all the reviews generally positive or generally negative.

      I kind of have the idea that movie reviews are kind of an echo chamber where after a few key critics establish a positive or negative trend, most of the other critics line up behind them.

      I'd wager that a lot of movie criticism is just content generation on a content provider's industrial schedule -- qui

  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2017 @11:13AM (#55181293)
    Perhaps the Rotten Tomatoes score is low, because the movie is bad, and that's why your box office sales are poor.
    • Perhaps the Rotten Tomatoes score is low, because the movie is bad, and that's why your box office sales are poor.

      That would imply correlation but not causation. In this case there isn't even correlation, implying that people happily spend money to see bad movies, and don't spend money to see good ones.

  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2017 @11:15AM (#55181313)

    So not really surprised on this one.

  • by ToasterTester ( 95180 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2017 @11:17AM (#55181327)

    The professional reviews are usually way off base loving or hating a film. I go by the public's reviews for a better idea if movie is worth my money. Even then you have to factor in the fanboy effect that will sway the numbers for the first day or even first weekend. Fanboy's are worse than the critics they like anything by . For fanboys its a competition more than if it's good or not like whole Marvel vs DC crowd the Star War fans versus the masses.

    I say ignore the professional critics check the reviews of the masses, but factor in if they have a fanboy following.

    • The professional critics' reviews tell me if the movie is well made, has an intriguing plot, good story development, etc.

      The public's reviews tell me if the movie is enjoyable to watch.

      Best case, both sets of reviews will be high. But when they diverge, the above is usually what I find.

      The bigger problem is ratings inflation. I tend to rate things pretty neutrally. i.e. On a 1-10 scale, the average movie score I give will be a 5.5 (actually it'll be closer to 7 because I use review sites to avoi
      • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

        Review sites try to compensate for this by normalizing scores (basically grade the movie on a curve). But for anonymous reviews this means that my "Ok" rating of 7 gets turned into a "poor" rating.

        It seems like they should be normalizing based on a curve that is specific for each user, not on aggregate. With anonymity turned on, I DEFINITELY wouldn't trust review votes (way too gameable), but even with it off, user reviews are self-selecting. You're more likely to rate a movie higher if you've seen it because you were already pre-disposed to liking it because you had an interest in seeing it. So the people who might think the new Iron Man movie is shit might not rate the movie at all because they had

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In tomorrow's news, Quasimodo blames mirrors for ugly reflections.

  • Now look at marketing expenses and see if there that ads up.

  • Rotten Tomatoes caters to trolls that love to have certain actors, directors, or genres. They also cater to the effete that are above the fray of mere entertainment.

    Rotten Tomatoes gets no views form me, and when I see the rating, a low score ensures I will be entertained and go through an extra half bucket of popcorn. the lower the better. I just want to be fascinated, or at least overwhelmed by the spectacle.

    Sometimes I agree, such as with La La Land, but sometimes we disagree; Keeping Up With the Joneses

  • by Lucas123 ( 935744 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2017 @11:38AM (#55181479) Homepage
    Rotten Tomatoes seems to get it wrong -- at least from the professional reviewer's standpoint. The audience rating is something entirely different, though. That said, I've also had to question that as well over the past year or so.
    • Rotten Tomatoes seems to get it wrong

      Rotten Tomatoes doesn't do anything. They are an aggregation service. It's the reviewers whose opinion you don't agree with. Mind you I tend to find my enjoyment of a movie compared to its critical review is highly dependent on the genre and how mainstream the movie is.

      A mainstream action movie that has a junk rating typically I find is junk. A fan service movie on the other hand can go any way. Bonus points for getting all political with complaints of casting choices, and for missing the entire point and f

  • Without seeing a scatter plot of the data, or other diagnostics such as, outliers, leverage, or residual plots, there's no way to assess the validity or make inferences about the result.

    The low correlation may be because the relationship is not linear, there are outliers, the data is bi-modal, etc.

    There's a lot more to this stuff than running CORREL() in Excel or Libre (but not if you simply need something to blog about of course).
  • People that are critical about their entertainment or have a broader taste simply don't go to the cinema. I personally would never go, family and friends that kind of want to relive their childhood with all of the last few years' remakes, still go.

    Especially on MetaCritic you can find the difference between general population and review critics. What critics find good, the general population doesn't and vice versa.

    Personally, I don't find most critics very useful because they often do not understand the sub

  • Theater? DVD? Download?

    Think of theater viewers as the beta testers. After it's released on DVD/download, those are the real world users who are more likely to make negative opinions heard.

  • Not that I disagree with the findings (don't care either way)...

    But, that's a ridiculously tiny sample size.

    Let's test it over 15,000 movies.

  • Because I've more-or-less given up on the ability of the mainstream movie industry to make movies that are actually great anyway.

  • Amazing trailers and ads = High expectations
    High expectations = lots of sales
    When your movie ends up sucking = lots of people with bad reviews

    Similar thoughts when you reverse it.

    Seems legit.

  • For decades, I have seen how the movies that have critics excited either bore me to tears, or disgust me. I can see when something is well done from a production standpoint, but the stories in movies that critics love are the movies that I HATE. I remember when "Driving Mrs. Daisy" had critics saying how wonderful a movie it was....and yet, everyone I have ever talked to hated that movie. From decade to decade, you get years where this movie or that movie has the critics going wild and praising them,

  • First off how "good" (putting aside "ratings" for a second) a movie is has only a limited baring on how "successful" (i.e. box office earnings) a movie is.

    A more likely correlation would be how much money was spent on promotion, how wide the actual release was, how many theaters it is showing in, how broad the audience is (not only in ratings such as "R", but also in content).

    Ratings, word of mouth, negative press may either impact A) someones decision to not see something they had intended to see, or B) so

  • Everyone is his own critic now. With previews, "leaked" trailers and whatnot, and on top of that a load of YouTubers who make movie critics in between their other stuff, who gives a shit about "professional" critics anymore? If anything, they're seen as paid shills that will like whatever movie has the biggest marketing budget to pay them off.

    Also "good" movies are not necessarily what will be a box office hit. What is a good movie? Well, take, say, 6th sense. Was a great movie. Great actors. Great acting.

    • are you going to buy a second ticket to see it again? Hell no. You already know the plot twist and seeing it again... well, no.

      A truly great movie does not rely on a twist ending for its entertainment value, and can be enjoyed just as much (but for different qualities) on repeated viewings, despite knowing the "twist".

    • Exactly.

      The "amateurs" are doing a MUCH better job then the paid shills. Who can forget:

      * Mr Plinkett's Star Wars Phantom Menice [youtube.com] review, and
      * Cinema Sins [youtube.com]

      When the commentary is better then that crap that passes for movies you know there is a serious problem!

      > There are awesome movies out there, but many of them are just as awesome at home on TV.

      Just having control over the volume, drinks & snacks, and CC alone makes it worthwhile to stay home.

      --
      "Fuck Movie Theaters - they suck." -- Unknown Soldier 201

      • True. With people being polarizing like crazy by more and more movies, watching people lose their shit when talking about those "controversial" movies has been way more entertaining than any of the movies themselves.

        And I didn't have to sit in a movie theater for any of that entertainment!

  • As the old saying goes, "There's no accounting for taste." Crap movies often do really well at the box office, but then that's just my opinion.
  • Bergquist's findings confirmed that of the 150 movies surveyed, there was only a 12 percent correlation between a movie receiving a bad score and not performing well at the box office. Summer films saw even less of a correlation, with seven percent of lower-scored movies not performing at the box office.

    Maybe I'm not looking at this the right way, but isn't the fact that a website is having anywhere from a 7% to 12% correlation with box office numbers kind of significant?

  • The fact that box office returns don't correlate with the actual quality of films (assuming there is a correlation between that and critic reviews in the first place, which I believe there is), is a BAD thing. It just means that the army of marketing assholes from the motion picture industry is succeeding in their mission to trick us and push their shoddy products down our throat. Great news for the studios, of course. Bad news for the rest of us, indicating that we're just going to continue seeing mostl

  • Assuming that most of the Rotten Tomato users aren't reviewing a pirated copy of a movie, one review, good or bad, equals one ticket sold. Unless the movie was so bad that you demanded your money back from the theatre, but it seems a little disingenuous to review a movie that you didn't even watch all of ;)
  • If you follow the links back to the original source [medium.com], Rotten Tomato score DOES correlate strongly with box office gross(p=0.4-0.6). But production budget and audience scoring have stronger correlations with box office gross (p=0.7-0.8). And that critic scores have not historically (pre-2010) correlated with production budget (no surprise), but more recent critic scores (2016, 2017) do correlate (p=0.79, p=.77).

    So the conclusion is that box office gross is not caused by RT scores despite the correlation.

  • In this climate, even bad movies generate doh.

  • The opening week determines the excitement that moviegoers have about the film BEFORE they see it. Not what artistic or even entertainment value the film may have after further reflection. The whole thing where the media announces some record sales is carefully controlled PR as well, and really only has a very short term impact on public perception of a film.

    That said, reviews by non-professional critics tend to follow immediate trends and it becomes a popularity contest. A lot of people like what other peo

  • So there may not be a correlation between "Box Office Mojo numbers" and "critic and audience score", but how does the spent marketing budget play into this? I assume if you plaster a city with movie ads, more people will go and watch. So if you want high box office numbers, you can buy them with advertising.
  • But I still prefer them over IMDB scores, which have been flooded with the lowest common denominator children / tweens and adhd style people who just think anything that's "ok" must be "uhhh I dunno? 9 or 10 I guess? it was ok!?"

    Nope.

    RT seems to more match my style, if a film is a 7.5 on IMDB and at least a 6.5 on RT, you can /probably/ rest assured, if it's a genre you enjoy, it's going to be an ok watch.

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