(Molly Bruns, Headline USA) A recent report revealed that a public relations firm manipulated movie-reviewing site Rotten Tomatoes by paying reviewers to leave positive comments.
Public relations firm Bunker 15 paid critics on the website to leave good reviews for 2018 movie Ophelia, which initial ratings put at an abysmal 46%, according to the Daily Wire.
“It’s a Sundance film and the feeling is that it’s been treated a bit harshly by some critics (I’m sure sky-high expectations were the culprit) so the teams involved feel like it would benefit from more input from different critics,” a Bunker 15 employee said in an email to a potential reviewer.
In the communications between the PR rep and potential reviewer, the rep made it clear that “super nice” reviews would be published on very visible websites and bad ones would only be sent to “smaller blog[s] that RT never sees.”
The movie’s ratings spiked to 62% in the following months.
“Wow, you are really reaching there,” said Daniel Harlow, Bunker 15 founder, when asked about his recruitment operations. “We have thousands of writers in our distribution list. A small handful have set up a specific system where filmmakers can sponsor or pay to have them review a film.”
Users of Rotten Tomatoes complained about the initial critical reviews skewing initial viewership, especially for big projects from larger studios.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania received an average 79% score from critics, who previewed the film before its public release.
After theaters opened to the public, reviews dropped into the 40-50% range—a drastic change from the initial impression of the critics, who may have taken money from the studios to secure better reviews.
“The studios didn’t invent Rotten Tomatoes, and most of them don’t like it. But the system is broken,” said filmmaker and former critic Paul Schrader. “Audiences are dumber. Normal people don’t go through reviews like they used to. Rotten Tomatoes is something the studios can game. So they do.”