Rotten Tomatoes has been working hard to diversify the critical voices that decide the company’s Tomatometer rating system. When readers and advocates pointed out that a large majority of the critics featured on the site were white males, Rotten Tomatoes took steps to diversify the critics, hoping to establish a more accurate scoring system for its movies and shows. A year ago, the company pledged to revamped the critics criteria for its rating systems with an increased focus on critics’ individual qualifications, allowing for more freelance critics to be accepted and those working with newer media platforms. Since that time, Rotten Tomatoes has added more than 600 individually-approved critics, whose film and TV reviews now count towards the Tomatometer scores.
Of that 600, 55% of the new critics are women, and 60% are freelancers, while 10% of them publish reviews on modern platforms including YouTube and podcasts. The company also stated that Rotten Tomatoes is also making meaningful progress in increasing ethnic diversity in the Tomatometer critics pool.
“Rotten Tomatoes is connecting audiences with authentic, trusted information from professional critics and fellow fans, to help them discover entertainment and decide what to watch in theaters and at home,” said Paul Yanover, president of Fandango, Rotten Tomatoes’ parent company. “Significant advancements are happening across Rotten Tomatoes, from the team’s work to increase critic diversity in the Tomatometer to expanding consumer confidence with the new Verified Audience Score. We are especially proud to commit to another $100,000 grant in 2020 to support film festivals and industry initiatives that further inclusion in entertainment criticism.”
All of the new critics are spotlighted on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer Critics home page, allowing readers to discover new voices in criticism from a variety of backgrounds and platforms. Rotten Tomatoes recently surveyed the 600 new Tomatometer critics, asking them about their experiences over the past year. When polled, 92% of the participants said that becoming a Tomatometer-approved critic has helped them amplify and legitimize their voice in criticism. A total of 73% have seen an increase in their site traffic, views, and social media followers, but many identified several barriers that still exist for newer critics. About 61% cited travel costs to festivals as a continuing concern, while 59% felt that proving their legitimacy as journalists to publications was their greatest challenge. About 43% said they are still not able to secure invitations to press screenings of films.
“We are encouraged by the progress we’re making towards creating a Tomatometer-approved critics pool that reflects the global entertainment audience and we will continue to build on our momentum,” said Jenny Jediny, Rotten Tomatoes Senior Manager, Critic Relations. “We invite our industry colleagues to join us in our effort to create more opportunities for journalists, especially those from underrepresented groups. Our new critics have shared with us the obstacles they still face, such as gaining access to press screenings and film festivals and securing writing assignments.”
To help critics from underrepresented groups gain access to key film festivals, Rotten Tomatoes established a $100K grant program in 2018 to assist with travel and lodging expenses associated with festival attendance. Rotten Tomatoes also hosted an in-person workshop, and published online resources for critics to help them navigate film festivals, work with publicists, and pitch editors.
Rotten Tomatoes has helped more than 160 journalists attend film festivals by donating grant money to the 2018 and 2019 Toronto International Film Festivals’ Media Inclusion Initiative, as well as the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and 2019 SXSW Film Festival and Conference. Rotten Tomatoes is renewing its grant program in 2020, by designating another $100K for donations to film festivals and other industry initiatives that are committed to increasing inclusion in criticism.
According to the company’s consumer research, fans value both the Tomatometer score, representing critical opinion, and the Audience Score when determining what to watch. To increase consumer confidence in the Audience Score system, Rotten Tomatoes introduced Verified Ratings and Reviews this past Spring. For eligible movies at the time of launch and beyond, Verified Audience Scores are made up of ratings from fans who are confirmed to have purchased tickets to those movies. Those fans’ written reviews display a “verified” badge. This is the same process Amazon uses with its reviews.
Since the launch of this system in May, more than 130 movies have received Verified Audience Scores, with over 475K Verified Ratings and 88K Verified Written Reviews posted by fans. Currently, Rotten Tomatoes users can get their rating and review “verified” if they purchased their movie ticket on Fandango. AMC Theatres, Regal, and Cinemark Theatres plan to participate as ticket purchase authenticators in the future.
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