MoviePass wants to build a Rotten Tomatoes for movie lovers

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MoviePass, already on a quest to make moviegoing affordable, wants to build a recommendation engine to help people find movies they’ll love.

The US movie subscription service wants to build a review and recommendation system fueled by its own users. Movie-review aggregation sites like Rotten Tomatoes are too general, and often too critical, for MoviePass’s moviegoers, according to the platform’s customers. MoviePass allows people to see one showing per day for a flat monthly fee.

“We’re finding people want to be able to review movies on our site,” CEO Mitch Lowe told Quartz. “They tell us they would prefer to read reviews by fellow MoviePass subscribers than go to Rotten Tomatoes; they find Rotten Tomatoes to be overly negative.”

Lowe told the Hollywood Reporter that MoviePass got a “running start” on user-generated reviews this month with the acquisition of Moviefone by MoviePass parents Helios and Matheson Analytics. The formerly Oath-owned company is best known for an automated service that offered movie showtimes by phone before that information was easily available on the internet. Moviefone exists today as a website with movie news, showtimes, and ticketing information, as well as ratings and reviews powered by Metacritic. It has more than 6 million unique visitors monthly, Helios and Matheson reported, three times MoviePass’s subscriber base.

Moviefone will remain its own brand, but could bring content like ratings and reviews to the MoviePass app.

“We haven’t really thought it through,” Lowe told Quartz before the Moviefone deal, “but the idea is that our customers want to be able to talk to each other more than they do now… People really want recommendations from people they think like movies like they do and have the same tastes.”

Rotten Tomatoes has been a cause of consternation in Hollywood because its method of review aggregation truncates the nuance of film criticism into a score that shows what share of people thought a movie was good. Bad scores, displayed on partner sites like the ticket platform Fandango and online-rental service iTunes, can depress a film’s performance. Good scores are often heralded in trailers and other movie marketing materials.

MoviePass, which has about 2 million members, found its subscribers tend to rate movies more positively in surveys than the general Rotten Tomatoes score suggests. ”They tell us, it was ‘free,’ so what am I going to do? Be critical about it?,” said Lowe, citing anecdotal research. “You have a lower threshold.”

Netflix subscribers do the same thing. (Lowe was a founding Netflix executive.) People are more willing to take risks on movies with MoviePass because the cost is baked into their subscription fee. If it’s bad, there’s no buyer’s remorse.

During Labor Day weekend in the US last September, MoviePass said it sold tickets to more than 200 different titles. “That made me realize people really could use some curation for their own tastes,” Lowe said.