Rotten Tomatoes Expanding Critics Outreach and Grant Program

Rotten Tomatoes, a resource for movie, TV and streaming recommendations, announced that it is furthering its commitment to increasing inclusion in entertainment criticism by expanding its Critics Outreach and Grant Program.

It has renewed its donation to the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Media Inclusion Initiative, which provides financial support to accredited press from underrepresented groups. Since the launch of TIFF’s Media Inclusion Initiative in 2018, Rotten Tomatoes has contributed over $100,000 to the program.

“According to a recent survey we conducted with 350 Tomatometer-approved critics, 92% contend that the cost of travel and lodging still prohibits them from attending key festivals and conventions,” Jenny Jediny, Rotten Tomatoes director of critic engagement, said in a statement. “Supporting festival inclusion programs remains an important part of Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics Outreach and Grant Program and we’re thrilled to be expanding our mentorship initiatives and scholarships for aspiring critics from underrepresented groups.”

The survey participants said the top three challenges critics face today are finding new opportunities as a member of a marginalized community; turning movie and TV criticism into a full-time career; and sustaining a work-life balance.

The top three industry changes survey participants would like to see include better accessibility to screening invites; more diversity and inclusion among the critic community; and continued adoption of hybrid and virtual events and festivals.

Additionally, among the critics from underrepresented groups who were surveyed, 76% said that they are invited to screenings more often when a film or series has a specific relation to their group.

Rotten Tomatoes also announced today that it will renew its support of the 2022 Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s Ruth Batchelor Scholarship, which benefits aspiring film critics from underrepresented groups in the Los Angeles area. In Chicago, Rotten Tomatoes recently launched the “Emerging Critics Grant Program” with the Chicago Film Critics Association, designed to support diverse aspiring critics from the local area.

Rotten Tomatoes continues to add new Tomatometer-approved critics to its world-famous entertainment rating system. Each year, Rotten Tomatoes receives hundreds of applications for Tomatometer consideration, and evaluates potential candidates based on a set of criteria. The criteria were refreshed in 2018 to place a greater emphasis on each critic’s individual credentials rather than their outlet, allowing for a wider and more diverse pool of critics’ perspectives to be included in the Tomatometer.

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Among the more than 100 new critics that Rotten Tomatoes has added to its Tomatometer critics pool over the past year, 74% are from underrepresented groups, 48% are women, 38% are people of color, 76% are freelancers and 34% are from new media platforms, including YouTube, podcasts and broadcast.

Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics Outreach and Grant Program was established in 2018 with the mission to help increase inclusion in entertainment criticism and support the next generation of critics.​To date, Rotten Tomatoes has donated more than $350,000 to festival inclusion programs, college scholarships and more, helping more than 600 aspiring critics from underrepresented groups pursue their academic and professional goals.

Additionally, Rotten Tomatoes hosts educational and mentoring programs.  In 2021, it launched “RT Labs,” a free online educational resource platform designed to support aspiring critics through recorded expert panels, interviews, how-to guides and more.

As part of Rotten Tomatoes’ ongoing educational efforts, last month the brand hosted a panel discussion titled “Kicking Off Your Career in Film and Television Criticism” at the Asian American Journalists Association’s National Convention. The panel featured professional critics providing advice to early-career journalists and students seeking opportunities in film and television criticism.

Rotten Tomatoes Adds More Than 600 Critics as Part of Inclusion Initiative

As part of an initiative to increase inclusion, movie recommendation service Rotten Tomatoes announced that over the past year it has added more than 600 individually-approved critics, whose film and TV reviews now count towards Tomatometer scores.

Fifty-five percent of the new critics are women, 60% are freelancers and 10% publish reviews on modern platforms including YouTube and podcasts.  Rotten Tomatoes is also making meaningful progress in increasing ethnic diversity in the Tomatometer critics pool, according to the service.

In August 2018, Rotten Tomatoes revamped the critics criteria for its Tomatometer movie and TV rating system with an increased focus on critics’ individual qualifications, allowing for more freelance critics to be accepted and those working with newer media platforms that go beyond the traditional written review.

“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 Rotten Tomatoes parent Fandango, in a statement.  “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.”

New critics are spotlighted on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer Critics home page.

Rotten Tomatoes recently surveyed the 600 new individually-approved Tomatometer critics about their experiences over the past year. Ninety-two percent of the participants said that becoming a Tomatometer-approved critic has helped them amplify and legitimize their voice in criticism and 73% have seen an increase in their site traffic, views and social media followers, according to the service. However, many identified a number of barriers that still exist for newer critics. Sixty-one percent cited travel costs to festivals as a continuing concern, while 59% felt that proving their legitimacy as journalists to publications was their greatest challenge. Forty-three percent said they are still not able to secure invitations to press screenings of films.

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“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, in a statement. “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 $100,000grant 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 to date 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, according to the service. Rotten Tomatoes is renewing its grant program in 2020, designating another $100,000 for donations to film festivals and other industry initiatives that are committed to increasing inclusion in criticism.

According to Rotten Tomatoes’ 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 its Audience Score, Rotten Tomatoes in May introduced Verified Ratings and Reviews. 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.

Since the launch in May, more than 130 movies have received Verified Audience Scores, with more than 475,000 Verified Ratings and 88,000 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. Top exhibitors AMC Theatres, Regal and Cinemark Theatres plan to participate as ticket purchase authenticators in the future. Visitors to the Rotten Tomatoes site can still rate and review movies regardless of whether or not they are confirmed ticket purchasers and their reviews are posted on the site.

Rotten Tomatoes Expands Pool of Critics

Rotten Tomatoes, the movie and TV show recommendation service, has debuted revamped critics criteria for its popular Tomatometer rating system to include more voices.

The entertainment review aggregator, the Tomatometer reflects the collective opinion of thousands of Tomatometer-approved critics. 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, according to the company.

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.  Recently, more than 200 new Tomatometer-approved critics have been added with many more to come, according to the company.

The criteria can be found on the Rotten Tomatoes site, along with an application to become a Tomatometer-approved critic.

“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, in a statement. “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 Sept. 6-16.

“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, in a statement. “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.”

New critics will be spotlighted on the Tomatometer Critics home page.  Rotten Tomatoes plans to introduce more new product features over the next year, the company announced.