Rotten Tomatoes is a root of ire in Hollywood. Producer Brett Ratner calls it the “worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture.” Jilted studios have pinned poor box-office returns on low Tomatometer scores. And others have faulted its reductive method of review aggregation for ruining the art of film criticism.
But not everyone is sour on the site. Jason Blum, the producer behind horror hits like Get Out and The Purge, says its elevating the film industry.
“Rotten Tomatoes is the best thing that happened to the movie business,” Blum told the New York Times (paywall), “because it means you have to make good movies.”
Indeed, the site, which scores films based on the share of reviewers that give them positive or negative reviews, makes it difficult to turn a lackluster film into a hit these days. But that’s not a problem for Blum, who has risen to the challenge with aplomb.
Blum’s Blumhouse Productions kicked off the year with M. Night Shyamalan’s suspenseful Split, which scored a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes and brought in $278 million globally—the most of any Blumhouse film, unadjusted for inflation. It followed that up with the near-perfect scoring Get Out (99%), a genre-bending satirical horror movie that raked in $253 million and Oscar buzz—all on a $4.5 million budget. It had a few other profitable, but minor successes in 2017, too, such as Sleight (72%), Lowriders (55%), and recently, Happy Death Day (69%), which cost $4.8 million to make and topped the box office earlier this month to earn $68.5 million worldwide, so far.
While the US box office has fallen 5% from last year to $8.7 billion, Blumhouse Productions is having its best year on record with $607.5 million in global returns through Oct. 29, based on ComScore and Box Office Mojo data.
It helped drive the horror genre to its biggest year ever in the US.
“What’s happening currently with the genre, which is bleeding black for studios, is the fact that filmmakers like [
director] James Wan and Jason Blum consistently turn out product that not only arrives at a bargain basement price, but that audiences turn out in droves for,” Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, tells Quartz. “Blumhouse is obviously at the top of the horror heap right now, in terms of consistency as well as product flow.”
Blum, who also had a hand in the Oscar-winner Whiplash, is skillful at scoring with one coveted, yet fickle crowd: millennials. He told the Times that millennials love going to horror movies, and that they love doing so in groups, which makes them the perfect audience for his off-kilter genre fare.”Producers like Blumhouse have been particularly adept at creating stories, situations, and characters that resonate strongly with younger audiences who are generally elusive and tough to draw to the multiplex,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at ComScore.
To be sure, they can’t all be winners. The long-delayed Amityville: The Awakening, a co-production with Dimension Films, scored a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes and earned just $742 (that is not a typo) during its limited box-office debut this weekend. That was after streaming for free in the Google Play store for two weeks, and controversy at its disgraced distributor, The Weinstein Company.