Rotten Tomatoes is rolling out even more changes that will keep trolls out of its audience reviews.
Earlier this year, the aggregation site was flooded with negative fan responses for “Captain Marvel” and “Star Wars: Episode IX” before either movie had been released — a clear indication that the critical response had nothing to do with the actual films. After that, Rotten Tomatoes rolled out new measures, including eliminating prerelease comments on movies and changing the “want to see” score from a percentage to the total number of people interested in a movie in an effort to deter “non-constructive input” on the site.
Now, even more changes are here. As of Thursday, Rotten Tomatoes will add “verified ratings and reviews,” representatives from the company told HuffPost on Wednesday.
The verified reviews will be for movies releasing now and in the future. (Sorry, “Us,” you’re going to be tethered to the past.) For these new releases, the audience score, which gives the percentage positive reviews, will be made up of ratings from fans who are confirmed to have purchased tickets. Those fans will also have a “verified” badge displayed next to their reviews.
Lori Pantel, chief marketing officer of Fandango, which owns Rotten Tomatoes, said, “All this was done with the spirit of transparency and really elevating the voice of our fans and really elevating the confidence that we have in our audience score.”
Here’s a screenshot showing what the new ratings will look like:
As you can see, the default score will be from verified ratings, but users can still add nonverified ratings as well. Those ratings will be available to view by clicking on the “all audience” option.
To be verified, Rotten Tomatoes users can purchase their tickets through Fandango. AMC Theatres, Regal and Cinemark Theatres plan to participate as ticket purchase authenticators later this year. The site is also looking to add verification tools in the future for when a movie is out of theaters.
“We wanted to make sure we were addressing that primary use case first, but absolutely we’ll be looking at other options for verification,” Fandango’s vice president of product Greg Ferris told HuffPost.
In addition to “increasing consumer confidence,” the updates are also meant to deter trolling.
“I think our primary goal is to give movie fans as many tools as they can use to make good decisions, but absolutely it has the effect of dissuading bad actors from trying to manipulate any sort of fan sentiment,” said Ferris.
Along with the changes to Rotten Tomatoes, Fandango is also ditching its old five-star rating system and will now simply display Rotten Tomatoes scores. Once tickets are confirmed through a user’s Fandango account, a user’s ratings and reviews will “count towards the Verified Audience Score displayed on Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes,” according to a press release on the changes.
“We think this is a great way to get a critical mass of verified ratings and reviews into the audience score in very short order,” Ferris said. He expects that within a day — or sometimes within hours — of a film’s release, a verified audience score will be available online. Once AMC, Regal and Cinemark verification is available, the process will be expedited even more.
The previous changes the site made to user-submitted reviews in February didn’t go off without a hitch.
Following the release of “Captain Marvel,” it appeared the movie was being review-bombed on the site. The Hollywood Reporter noted that within hours of its release, the movie had 58,000 user ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and an audience score in the low 30s.
At the time, Rotten Tomatoes told HuffPost this was actually a bug that rolled the prerelease “want to see” ratings into the post-release ratings, leading to a surprisingly high number.
As for the possibility of something like that happening again, Ferris said, “We have high confidence for what we’re deploying but we have all hands on deck. We’ve got teams across the building ready to deploy and monitor very closely.”