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.