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Sorry movie studios, you can't blame Rotten Tomatoes for the lousy box office

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Aside from It, this summer’s box office has been largely terrible. Oh sure, The Hitman’s Bodyguard has been making a good amount of money, but studios don’t release movies in the summer so they can make a good amount of money; They release movies in the summer so executives can buy miniature yachts that fit inside their full-size yachts. Last week, Hollywood decided to pin the blame on Rotten Tomatoes, presumably believing that the site’s straightforward interface makes it too easy for consumers to determine whether or not a movie is bad, with some studios going so far as to admit that they manipulate their release schedules to undermine the effect of the dreaded Tomatometer.

However, the studios shouldn’t be blaming their lighter-than-average take on poor reviews, as a new study has determined that Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t actually have much of an impact on a movie’s performance. This comes from Variety, which reports that Data And Analytics Project director Yves Bergquist as USC’s Entertainment Technology Center has written a post on Medium in which he analyzed film data from the last 17 years and determined that “Rotten Tomatoes scores have never played a very big role in driving box office performance, either positively or negatively.”


Bergquist’s study takes down a number of commonly held theories about box-office performance, claiming that critics aren’t harsher on big-budget blockbusters and that a huge production budget—a.k.a. expensive CG—doesn’t usually translate to better money. Most damningly of all, though, Bergquist determined that critics aren’t more negative than the average moviegoer, but that moviegoers are falling more in line with what critics think. In other words, if someone thinks a movie is bad, it’s because they recognize it as bad and not because a critic told them it’s bad.

That means the studios’ real enemy is a more intelligent—or at least more aware—audience, not harsh critics or Rotten Tomatoes. Unfortunately, solving that problem will be a bit more complicated.