Then why do certain films bomb at the box office?
This summer we saw multiple people inside the Hollywood system try to blame the popular film criticism website Rotten Tomatoes for their film’s poor performance at the box office. However, according to a study done by Yves Bergquist, director of Data & Analytics Projects at USC’s Entertainment Technology Center, that is actually not the case.
Bergquist did a study analyzing the 150 films that have grossed over $1 million so far in 2017 as well as those that have grossed over $2 million since the year 2000, and compared them to the audience and critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes. He found no clear connection.
This study comes as a result of Rush Hour director Brett Ratner giving a public statement with Entertainment Weekly earlier this year, saying that he believes Rotten Tomatoes is leading to the destruction of Hollywood.
In his study, which is posted to Medium, Bergquist writes “The math is pretty overwhelming in saying there was no (positive or negative) correlation in 2017 between Rotten Tomatoes Scores and box office returns.”
Bergquist says that while Rotten Tomatoes is not behind poor returns at the box office, audience reception might be. Whether the audience and fans like a film will determine whether they recommend it to others or see it again. And, since 2013, critic and audience ratings have become increasingly similar — meaning the audience is able to tell when a bad movie is bad without needing someone on Rotten Tomatoes to tell them it’s bad first.
As a result, there have been movies that have been both audience and critic pleasing this summer, such as Wonder Woman, Baby Driver and Spider-Man: Homecoming, and they went on to perform stellar numbers at the box office.
But then there are films like Baywatch, King Arthur and that dreaded Emoji Movie — all films audiences did not respond well to and therefore did not recommend to others.
Just because a film gets a low score on Rotten Tomatoes, doesn’t mean it’s destined to be a box office bomb - otherwise, they would have stopped making Transformers movies a long, long time ago. People are going to like what they like, regardless of whether the critics agree with them.
However — the two groups often do agree and want to see the same kinds of movies. A studio can throw as much money as they want into a project, that doesn’t guarantee quality or box office returns, and that’s a lesson Hollywood is learning the hard way. Maybe, then, the answer isn’t to blame people for not liking your bad movies. Instead, maybe just stop making bad movies altogether.