The US and Canadian box office—which was 4% ahead of last year at the start of May—is now down 5%, with $7.4 billion in returns as of Aug. 20, according to ComScore.
Through it all, the industry has been looking for someone to blame. The movie-review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes has bore the brunt of the backlash from producers and others in the industry who argue it poisons audiences against movies before they are released. Its integration into the movie-ticket buying service, Fandango, they add, only makes the effects more pronounced.
But can a bad score on Rotten Tomatoes really sink a movie release? It certainly doesn’t help. The worst-reviewed movies of the summer on Rotten Tomatoes all had pretty poor showings at the domestic box office, which is comprised of the US and Canada.
Among the victims was The Dark Tower. It scored a sorry 16% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer, which shows the share of critics on the site who gave the film a positive review, and had an even sadder opening weekend. It brought in $19 million in domestic returns, compared to its $60 million budget. The Aug. 4 debut led the worst weekend at the summer box-office yet. And things only got worse from there—the film’s returns fell nearly 60% during its second weekend in cinemas.
Universal’s equally panned The Mummy reboot, which is supposed to kickstart an entire cinematic universe, followed a similar trajectory with a $32 million opening and 54% drop in its second weekend in theaters.
Not even kids and family movies, which are often review-proof, were immune. The Emoji Movie scored the lowest of all this summer’s US wide releases and still opened with $25 million domestically—on par with expectations—after Sony gave Rotten Tomatoes little chance to damage its box-office returns. But the film plummeted more than 50% the following week, more than other comparable animated films.
Terrible reviews weren’t the only things working against these films. US audiences also showed they’re sick of sequels and reboots this summer, but that didn’t stop better-reviewed movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming and War for the Planet of the Apes from delivering strong showings.
The films that critics loved kept the box office from completely collapsing during the season, including blockbusters Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, as did smaller studio fare like Baby Driver and Girls Trip.
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