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Rotten Tomatoes Looks to Diversify its Tomatometer Critics

The company is making steps toward the right direction

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One of the ongoing problems with movie reviews is diversity. While millions of people flock to critics and curated lists of reviews before choosing a film for the weekend, the reviewers behind those scored tend to be white and male. To find a more broadened approach to reviews, Rotten Tomatoes has revamped the website’s critics criteria for the Tomatometer rating system, which will allow more people into the pool to reflect an accurate score for each film. The Tomatometer reflects the collective opinion of thousands of Tomatometer-approved critics and each Tomatometer score represents the percentage of positive reviews for a given film or television show.

Rotten Tomatoes’ revamped criteria have an increased focus on the critic’s individual qualifications and body of work, rather than basing Tomatometer approval primarily on their publication or employer. This strategy will allow for a wider and more diverse pool of critics’ perspectives to be included in the Tomatometer.

In addition, the criteria have expanded beyond the written review to include newer media platforms. Now individuals and outlets that produce reviews for podcasts and digital video series with a strong social media presence and audience engagement will be considered for the Tomatometer. Most recently, over 200 new Tomatometer-approved critics have been added with many more to come.

“Over the past few years, our team has added hundreds of new voices to the Tomatometer on top of the thousands we currently have, with the goal of creating a critics pool that closely reflects the global entertainment audience,” said Jenny Jediny, Rotten Tomatoes critics relations manager. “We took another key step today by revamping our critics criteria that both shifts our focus to approving critics individually rather than through publications, and introduces updated guidelines for newer media platforms to be a part of the Tomatometer.”

To help critics gain access to key film festivals, Rotten Tomatoes has established a $100,000 grant program. Over the next year, Rotten Tomatoes will provide grants to non-profit organizations that help critics with costly expenses associated with festival attendance. The first grant of $25,000 will go to the Toronto International Film Festival’s Media Inclusion Initiative, which will help the organization bring almost 200 new journalists serving underrepresented groups to the Festival, running September 6-16, 2018.

“Rotten Tomatoes plays an important role in connecting fans with trusted information and recommendations on what to watch in theaters and at home,” said Paul Yanover, president of Fandango, Rotten Tomatoes’ parent company. “Advancing inclusion in criticism continues to be a priority for Rotten Tomatoes and we plan to expand our work with media outlets that hire critics, film festivals and other groups, so as an industry we can better serve consumers.”

In an effort to help foster the next generation of film critics and entertainment journalists, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and Rotten Tomatoes announced earlier this month the second recipient of the Rotten Tomatoes Fellowship in Digital Innovation and Entertainment Criticism, for academic year 2018-19. Graduate student Sophie-Marie Prime, who recently received an undergraduate degree in film and media studies at University of California, Berkley received this year’s fellowship.

Established in 2017, the multi-year graduate fellowship combines academic coursework from USC Annenberg and USC’s six art schools with on-site experience working at Rotten Tomatoes. Students gain tuition support and professional experience working with Rotten Tomatoes’ editorial staff and leaders, across its online, mobile and social platforms.

Today marks the first phase of Rotten Tomatoes’ new enhancements to its Tomatometer rating system, designed to better serve audiences around the world with their entertainment viewing decisions. New critics will be spotlighted on the Tomatometer Critics home page, so that entertainment fans can discover new voices in criticism from a variety of backgrounds and platforms.