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Why Rotten Tomatoes scores don't mean what they seem

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Channel: Vox
Categories: Fine Arts   |   Film  
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It’s about consensus, not quality.

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EDIT: At 2:57, a previous version of this video mistakenly featured a clip from Atonement. The video has since been updated to feature a clip of Dunkirk.

The Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer maintains high status in today’s Hollywood. A certified fresh badge can act like a marketing tool for a film. So filmmakers are sensitive to how their work fares on the platform. But the Tomatometer number you see measures something different than quality — it measures consensus.

Earlier this summer, some executives criticized the platform, saying that critics tanked their summer hits. Films like Baywatch, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and The Mummy all performed below expectations at the box office. Hollywood needed a scapegoat. Because Fandango, one of the largest online ticket-distributors, features the tomatometer at the point-of purchase, Rotten Tomatoes seemed the perfect target for the ire of executives.

But when you look closely at how Rotten Tomatoes works, it becomes clear that the service is mainly good at measuring critical consensus, not quality. That’s due to how the Tomatometer is calculated.

To read more about how Rotten Tomatoes works, you can read this article from Alissa Wilkinson: is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out to get up to speed on everything from Kurdistan to the Kim Kardashian app.

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