Removing "Want to See" metric from Rotten Tomatoes is short-sighted and will hurt Films
Social Media is abuzz about the Global Film Aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes removing the " Want to See" metric from upcoming films. The change was made in response to the massive downvote attributed to "Rightwing" trolls on social media driving down the score for the upcoming Marvel blockbuster, Captain Marvel.
At the time the score was pulled from the website, the "Want to See" aggregate for Captain Marvel had fallen to less than 30%. The score had been severely deflated in light of controversial comments from Brie Larson concerning the lack of representation in the film press space.
I totally agree with Brie Larson as a Black Man I'm very sensitive to issues of race and representation in film and entertainment in general. The issue with Brie is that her comments were really sloppy which served to alienate a significant portion of the films target audience.
If a "White man" made condescending statement's disparaging large swaths of a films audience based on race, sex, or ethnicity that guy would be quickly labeled as a racist, sexist or an Alt-right Nazi. To be fair, the label probably would a appropriate.
My point is that although I understand the point Brie was attempting to make I also understand why people are reacting negatively.
The reaction may be exaggerated by the mass flagging but the marketing behind this film isn't exactly innocent and has caused the divisive reaction within the fan-base. This is exactly why a log of audience anticipation is needed and why removing the option is short sighted. At the very list logging anticipation for a film will give an early indication of how effective the marketing is behind a project. If there's little interest or the reaction is generally negative, something is wrong. Hiding a rating doesn't benefit a studio outside of masking the buzz behind a false air of positive spin.
Many outlets have reported that film box-office's have been on a downward trajectory for a while now. The Verge previously reported that the overall theater attendance for 2017 had dropped to the lowest numbers since 1992. There are a lot of reasons for the downturn, including the mainstreaming of video games and the rise of streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hulu.
Another reason for declining box office is a lack of variety in the films being released and the rise of paid influencers. To be fair, this is an issue that goes beyond film. Professional reviewers are often paid for their opinions. Even if the position is not brought with cash it may be acquired with access to exclusive interviews, press passes to exclusive events or content creators being showered with gifts.
With ever increasing budgets a string of badly reviewed films can and has bankrupt studios in the past. It is important for film studios to control the narrative and one of the ways in which this is done is by using influencers control the buzz surrounding a film.
This sponsored narrative often runs counter to the the audience and you often huge divergent splits amongst the audience and critical ratings. A couple weeks back Alita: Battle Angel was heavily panned by professional critics but currently holds a 94% Audience score.
Make no mistake, Alita has a huge budget and is on track to either barely break even or lose money. One thing to note with the image above is that although the movie is certified rotten by 264 professional critics the audience rating is 94% among 18K user's that have presumably seen the film.
The audience score carries weight because it reflects the positive word of mouth surrounding a film. It's also safe to say that the final box office tally will probably be higher because the audience generally happy walking out of the theater.
The obvious counter to my argument is that the "Want to See" has nothing to do with the audience score for a released film. To that I'd say you're wrong.
Hundreds of films are released annually and in many instances the only advertisements a fan will see will be the trailers they see in the a theater. Not everyone is plugged into Twitter or Youtube. I was interested in seeing Alita quite simply because of the trailer. I had no knowledge of the Manga until a few hours before purchasing my tickets. In theory, If I missed the trailer that played during Venom my family and I would have missed the film entirely.
Let's use the same logic for an indie film that probably has a minuscule marketing budget. That film probably hasn't been seen or widely distributed across social media platforms. That movie is also probably not registering enough interest from professional critics to positively impact the box office.
Those indie/mid budget films more than likely have to rely on trailers and word of mouth to passively promote the project. Aggregate sites such as rotten tomatoes are also another venue to register interest in a film. It's not a perfect metric but If a potential customer sees positive interest in a film they are more likely to react positively or take the plunge to see the movie, judging for themselves and then spreading the word. An aggregate site should not jump in and play favorites at the behest of a studio.
Removing the "Want to See" metric from the website isn't going to fix the narrative surrounding Captain Marvel and will lead to further manipulation of film reviews by studios. Removing the option to register interest in a film hurts movies long term and its not hard to imagine a situation down the line in which audience ratings are removed entirely from the website.
The film will be review bombed upon release because of Brie Larson's comments and the marketing surrounding the release. The movie will make money being under the MCU umbrella but it wont make as much money because of the lead actress and her statement's having negatively impacted the story surrounding the movie. This is why an anticipation rating were implemented in the first place.
Censorship is never a positive solution and in this instance is an over reaction to specific actions by the lead actor and marketing surrounding a specific film. Rotten Tomatoes move to change the rules to accommodate Disney and other corporate entities is cowardly and throws the credibility of the entire site into question.
You can't be an aggregate if you've chosen a side.