Few places summon the trolls like movie reviews. After suffering through multiple cases of review-bombing – when trolls flood in with disproportionate negative reviews – Rotten Tomatoes wants to weed out the people who haven’t actually, you know seen the movie. Specifically, users will now be required to verify their ticket purchase for their votes to be counted in the new Audience Score:
“Rotten Tomatoes now features an Audience Score made up of ratings from users we’ve confirmed bought tickets to the movie – we’re calling them “Verified Ratings.” We’re also tagging written reviews from users we can confirm purchased tickets to a movie as “Verified” reviews.”
Currently, you can verify you’ve seen a movie if you’ve purchased a ticket through Fandango, but AMC, Regal, and Cinemark have signed up to participate. Other providers are on the way as well. You simply need to match your Rotten Tomatoes account with the account used to buy your ticket.
To be clear, you can still review a movie even if you’re not verified. It simply won’t be counted towards the default AudienceScore. You can access an all-inclusive Audience Score, verified or not, by tapping on “more info” and selecting “all audience” on a movie’s page.
The change comes after several recent cases of review-bombing, often by people who took issue with a movie’s social justice or representation values. Examples include Black Panther, Ghostbusters (2016), Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Captain Marvel.
There are some caveats. The feature is only available for new releases, so movies already affected by fake reviews are out of luck. It’s limited to US theaters at the moment, and because it relies on online accounts, people who actually – gasp – buy their ticket at the box office are out of luck. That leaves a huge swath of viewers with a greatly diminished voice, and it skews the demographic of whose reviews are being counted. Given only Fandango – which owns Rotten Tomatoes – is supported at launch some might see verified ratings as a ploy to encourage people to buy their tickets from Fandango.
Still, it’s an obvious step in the right direction. Though few people can submit verified reviews at the moment, the sample size should be large enough to determine whether a movie is enjoyable to audiences. Perhaps more importantly, if trolls see their reviews aren’t counting towards the primary Audience Score, they’ll stop submitting fake reviews in the first place.
At the very least, audience scores should now be more accurate now that they won’t be influenced by reviews from people who haven’t seen a film. It’ll be interesting to see whether the new Audience Scores will line up more closely with reviews from critics. I’m going to guess they will.