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Rotten Tomatoes is making audience ratings more prominent

By Ashley Rodriguez

Critics are lukewarm on Robert Rodriguez’s new sci-fi epic Alita: Battle Angel. Yet, audiences on Rotten Tomatoes are digging it, with 94% rating the film positively. This sort of divergence has happened before, with critics and audiences on the platform reaching vastly different consensuses on movies like Bright, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Bohemian Rhapsody in recent memory.

Since launching in 1998, Rotten Tomatoes has become an increasingly important part of the cinematic ecosystem. Moviegoers, particularly in the US where the site is based, tend to consult the site before seeing a film to judge whether it is worth their time. Movie studios tout good scores, and some producers have blamed bad scores for the sinking the audiences for their films.

The “Tomatometer,” which measures the share of critics on the platform who reviewed the film positively, has always been the metric featured most prominently throughout Rotten Tomatoes and partner sites like Fandango that publish its ratings. Today, Rotten Tomatoes is starting to change that. The movie-review aggregator is making the “audience score,” which measures the share of users on the platform that rated the film 3.5 stars or higher, as prominent as the Tomatometer on movie title pages, the company announced.

It’s a minor tweak in the design, as you can see in the images below. But it sends the message that audience ratings are becoming more important to the platform.

The movie-review aggregator made other changes to its audience ratings, too. As of Feb. 25, people can no longer leave reviews or comments on films before they’re released. You can thank Captain Marvel for that one. The shift comes after the upcoming Marvel movie was panned by users who hadn’t even seen it yet. Some people posted comments, while selecting they were “not interested” in the film, which appeared to take offense to actress Brie Larson’s observations published in Marie Claire that many of the critics reviewing her movies were white males.

Rotten Tomatoes previously allowed people to indicate whether or not they wanted to watch a film, and post comments about the movie, before it was released. Detractors of Captain Marvel used that feature to trash the movie and its lead actress, Brie Larson, earlier this month, before reviews of the film were out or the movie had been screened for preview audiences.

“We are disabling the comment function prior to a movie’s release date,” Rotten Tomatoes said in a blog post on Monday. “Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership.”

Users will still be able to review the movie, and any other movie, after it is released.

People can also still mark whether or not they want to see a title ahead of its release, but Rotten Tomatoes no longer displays the share of users who indicated they wanted to see the film as a percentage score. Instead, it shows the number of users who said they wanted to see it. The “want to see” share was previously published in the same place the audience score appears after the film is released, which was confusing as the want-to-see and audience scores were two different metrics.

Rotten Tomatoes will be making other changes to its audience ratings system in the coming months, as well, such as introducing new icons, security features, and verified reviews from ticket purchasers. Those features may aim to address some of the alleged past attempts by users to game the audience score with bots or other techniques.

The movie-review aggregator appears to be taking some of the negativity and biases on the platform seriously. Last year, Rotten Tomatoes also took steps to diversify its critic pool.