Editorial

CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019): Rotten Tomatoes Cancels ‘Want to See’ Score & Comments on Upcoming Movies due to this Film

Captain Marvel’s Low ‘Want to See’ Score Causes Rotten Tomatoes to Make Drastic Changes

Major news websites like Rotten Tomatoes make major and minor changes to their external functionality and service offerings all the time. These changes are usually carried out through a carefully orchestrated roll-out or winding down of the product or service. This is precursed with an announcement across social media channels, via email, and on the website’s blog (if they have one).

That was the opposite of how Rotten Tomatoes conducted the elimination of their “Want to See’ polling function for upcoming theatrical films and the termination of commenting on unreleased theatrical films.

Rotten Tomatoes conterminously made these two changes and announced them via a press release on the same day. The pertinent part of that press release:

As of February 25, we will no longer show the ‘Want to See’ percentage score for a movie during its pre-release period. Why you might ask? We’ve found that the ‘Want to See’ percentage score is often times confused with the ‘Audience Score’ percentage number. (The ‘Audience Score’ percentage, for those who haven’t been following, is the percentage of all users who have rated the movie or TV show positively – that is, given it a star rating of 3.5 or higher – and is only shown once the movie or TV show is released.)

What you will now see at the top of a movie or TV page, once it has been released, is this:

What else are we doing? We are disabling the comment function prior to a movie’s release date. Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership. We have decided that turning off this feature for now is the best course of action. Don’t worry though, fans will still get to have their say: Once a movie is released, audiences can leave a user rating and comments as they always have.

These actions by Rotten Tomatoes, the deletion of the ‘Want to See’ percentage score and comments on unreleased theatrical films, seem to be as a direct result of the ‘Want to See’ score and the comments for the upcoming Marvel film Captain Marvel.

The sequence of events seem to be this: Captain Marvel star Brie Larson, while speaking about at the Women in Film Los Angeles Crystal + Lucy Awards, said “I do not need a 40 year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about A Wrinkle in Time. It wasn’t made for him. I want to know what that film meant to women of color, to biracial women, to teen women of color, to teens that are biracial”, part of that segment of the movie-going demographic (40 year-old white males) became annoyed, some upset, others outraged, they began voicing their opinions on social media, YouTube, and on Rotten Tomatoes (down-voting Captain Marvel via the ‘Want to See’ score on Rotten Tomatoes plus leaving deriding comments on that page), Larson apologized during the press tour for Captain Marvel, the ‘Want to See’ score and vocal opposition to Brie Larson’s comments continued, gaining momentum as the ‘Want to See’ score plummeted (it had dropped from the mid-90s to a 27% ‘Want to See’ score) on February 24, 2019, then on February 25, 2019, Rotten Tomatoes made the unprefaced, unexpected decision to eliminate the ‘Want to See’ score and comments from unreleased films.

There is a saying in the real-world spy industry – “A coincidence takes a lot of planning.” Under the guise of a per-planned “Product” update, Rotten Tomatoes wants the public to believe that they just happened to delete two key functions on the front end of their website as both were potentially negatively affecting the opening weekend of Walt Disney’s latest tent-pole film?

Fandango President Paul Yanover had this to say about the timing of the Rotten Tomatoes’ changes:

“(The changes) are not simply a reaction to, ‘Oh, gee, there’s some noise created around (certain movies),'” Yanover told me. Yes, some adjustments are aimed as what he calls “noise reduction,” when high-profile films such as Captain Marvel or Star Wars movies attract trolls with agendas. But as a whole, these changes are part of a long-term site strategy, he said.

That is an incredible “coincidence,” especially when one considers the facts that: a.) the two Rotten Tomatoes’ functions in question were deleted the same day their cancellations were announced (what was the imperative?), b.) Captain Marvel‘s ‘Want to See’ score was plummeting daily (did I just answer the previous question?), and c.) Captain Marvel is being released in less than two weeks on March 8, 2019.

I believe that Rotten Tomatoes made a strategic move to tie-off the marketing hemorrhage that was happening at Rotten Tomatoes with regard to Captain Marvel via the website’s ‘Want to See’ score.

The objective observer can see Rotten Tomatoes’ position and point-of-view on the Brie Larson / Captain Marvel matter. Rotten Tomatoes did not want to be used as a tool to vent frustration, anger, and rage at a film and franchise IP because of comments made by the film’s lead actress.

Furthermore, Rotten Tomatoes can do whatever they want, whenever they want with their own website. They own it and they say what website functions are made public.

All that being said, Rotten Tomatoes’ decisive and quick decision regarding ‘Want to See’ percentage scores and comments on unreleased theatrical films reeks of impartiality, of possible mounting pressure from third-parties with a financial interest, of censorship, and is an example of swatting a fly with a bazooka.

Rotten Tomatoes had to do something to combat the incensed, the ne’er-do-wells, and the trolls but was this move overkill? Only time will tell if Rotten Tomatoes’ actions were accurate and proportional to the situation.

Here is the full Rotten Tomatoes press release:

Today we are excited to start our Product update blog, which will allow us to keep you informed of changes and updates on Rotten Tomatoes.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve made a number of updates at Rotten Tomatoes, all in an effort to streamline the site and provide users with a more enriched experience. These updates include the launch of a new visual identity (you don’t hate the red anymore, right?); the creation of new original editorial, video, and social content (check us out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram); and a revamped Tomatometer critics criteria that better reflects the current media landscape, increases inclusion, and more fully serves the global entertainment audience.

We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, but let’s get to what you really want to hear about!

Starting this week, Rotten Tomatoes will launch the first of several phases of updates that will refresh and modernize our Audience Rating System. We’re doing it to more accurately and authentically represent the voice of fans, while protecting our data and public forums from bad actors.

As of February 25, we will no longer show the ‘Want to See’ percentage score for a movie during its pre-release period. Why you might ask? We’ve found that the ‘Want to See’ percentage score is often times confused with the ‘Audience Score’ percentage number. (The ‘Audience Score’ percentage, for those who haven’t been following, is the percentage of all users who have rated the movie or TV show positively – that is, given it a star rating of 3.5 or higher – and is only shown once the movie or TV show is released.)

What you will now see at the top of a movie or TV page, once it has been released, is this:

What else are we doing? We are disabling the comment function prior to a movie’s release date. Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership. We have decided that turning off this feature for now is the best course of action. Don’t worry though, fans will still get to have their say: Once a movie is released, audiences can leave a user rating and comments as they always have.

Last but not least, you will notice we are making some layout changes to the site. Through our research department we have learned that our users would prefer a cleaner, less cluttered, presentation of the Tomatometer and Audience Score. Don’t worry, the information and data are still there (promise!).

We hope you enjoy these changes. Please leave feedback in the comment section below. We are taking notes.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you at the movies.

When I first read this press release yesterday on Rotten Tomatoes, there were a hundred comments under the press release around 3:30 – 4 p.m. on February 25, 2019 (some well-reasoned and thought-out, others hilarious, some spiteful and mean-spirited).

Now there are zero comments under the press release. They are all off-line now. Another “coincidence”?

Rotten Tomatoes censored and eliminated the comments on their press release about censoring and eliminating comments.

I feel sadness for all the people involved with Captain Marvel and Rotten Tomatoes because of this situation. No one could have predicted this negative whirlwind around Captain Marvel, a film that is supposed to bring joy and happiness to fans, families, and cinephiles alike.

I fear that a Star Wars: The Last Jedi / Solo: A Star Wars Story backlash is brewing as a direct result of this move by Rotten Tomatoes. This is just speculation, but if true, is the saddest part of this entire situation.

What are your thoughts on Brie Larson’s comments, Marvel fans’ reaction to it, and Rotten Tomatoes’ reaction to the fans’ voting and comments?

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About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A college graduate who started Film-Book.com, ProMovieBlogger.com, and TrendingAwards.com after attending an eCommerce class in Business School. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies. In addition to writing for FilmBook, ProMovieBlogger, and TrendingAwards, he also edits the copy published on the websites, manages their writing staff, back-end operations, site finances, social media accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions.

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