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  • Chances are you've seen this tomato before.

  • It's become ubiquitousand quite contentious

  • This chart helps to explain why.

  • We're releasing more films now than ever before.

  • And in a world of excess choice, people need guidance to make tough decisions.

  • Which is why we need services like Rotten Tomatoes

  • The internet staple got its start in the late 90s.

  • And in 2016, Fandango bought its parent company.

  • Now, you go to buy a ticket, and there it is.

  • Which makes that rating important to understand.

  • Because the tomatometerit's more complex than you might expect.

  • Films can earn one of three designations: rotten, for movies rated 60% of critics gave a positive review.

  • Fresh, for those earning a rate above 60%

  • or Certified Fresh.

  • That's reserved for films that were reviewed 80 times and 70% or more of the reviews are positive.

  • 5 of those reviews need to be from top critics.

  • Critics submit a review with their own rating,

  • or sometimes Rotten Tomatoes asks the critic if it's positive.

  • If it's borderline, Rotten Tomatoes usually says the review is fresh.

  • Rotten Tomatoes depends on a small army of reviewers to make the tomatometer work.

  • There's about three thousand critics that are counted right now though not every critic

  • reviews every film so it's usually a few hundred per film.

  • That's Alissa Wilkinsonshe's a staff film critic at

  • Which means her reviews count toward the official Tomatometer.

  • But the nuance in Alissa's writing is largely reduced to the rating you'll find near the

  • top of her articles.

  • Because Rotten Tomatoes uses a thumbs up thumbs down method on everyone's reviews it means

  • that it kind of makes a vaguer statements of consensus.

  • we don't get a sense so much of people who have mixed ideas about a film.

  • Look at these two films: Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant, and Barry Jenkins' Moonlight.

  • Both films are certified fresh, but the similarities end there.

  • Alien was an underwhelming blockbuster sequel with a reported budget of 97 million dollars.

  • Moonlight was an Oscar winning drama from a fledgling director with a budget 1/24th

  • the size of Alien's.

  • Both films achieved the blanket consensus needed for the certified fresh badge.

  • Alien finished with a Tomatometer at 70% — toward the low end of the certified fresh spectrum.

  • Moonlight received a 98 percent Tomatometernear total consensus.

  • But Alien was rated 6.4 out of 10 on average, after Rotten Tomatoes converted critical star

  • ratings, letter grades, and number scores to its 10 point scale.

  • Moonlight, on the other hand, earned an average rating of 9 out of 10 per review.

  • Most critics loved it and agreed with one another.

  • So the two films earned the badge, but were qualitatively world's apart.

  • Here's another scenario:

  • Both Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, and Jordan

  • Peele's Get Out are highly rated and certified fresh.

  • But according to the Tomatometer, Get Out edges out Dunkirk by 6 percentage points.

  • If you saw these scores on the Fandango purchase page, you might think that critics rated Get

  • Out higher than Dunkirk.

  • The Rotten Tomatoes page for each film shows that

  • Dunkirk earned a higher average rating per review.

  • Dunkirk earned a lower tomatometer because there was less agreement among criticsmore

  • variance in the data.

  • And when there is less consensus, the rating is lower.

  • But a cute single tomato rating just can't give you all that information.

  • Other rating systems try to circumvent these problems with their own methodology.

  • Metacritic, the most visible aggregator aside from Rotten Tomatoes, is very subjective.

  • It casts a much smaller net than Rotten Tomatoes, and generally does more interpretation and

  • weighting in their scoring.

  • Metacritic is also less transparent about their rating system than Rotten Tomatoes is.

  • So, is there a one-size fits all, killer method to get digestible and accurate reviews of

  • film in a fraction of time than it logically could take?

  • Absolutely not.

  • That's preposterous;

  • the whole point of the Tomatometer is to help you make a decision quickly.

  • If you want context, you click and then you read.

  • Or, watch.

  • And in a world of limited time and excess choice, we all benefit from a bit of guidance.

  • Just make sure you know how your guide is getting you there.

Chances are you've seen this tomato before.

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Why Rotten Tomatoes scores don't mean what they seem

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    Evangeline posted on 2018/04/24
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