If you go to the popular Rotten Tomatoes website to check out the score for Warner Bros.’ newly-released Justice League, you’ll find a deeply unimpressive score of 37%, based on the poor reviews the superhero flick has garnered.
However, while Rotten Tomatoes usually posts its scores just after the review embargo has ended, in this case it waited more a day before doing so. And because 30% of Rotten Tomatoes is owned by Warner Bros. owner Time Warner (twx), via its stake in the review-aggregator’s owner, ticket-sale website Fandango, people are justifiably asking questions.
As Vanity Fair deputy editor Katey Rich tweeted, this is a “BAD bad look” for Rotten Tomatoes. Variety critic Guy Lodge told The Washington Post that “we need more transparency and equality on Rotten Tomatoes.”
Rotten Tomatoes’ defense is that it wanted to reveal Justice League‘s score in a new Facebook video segment called See It/Skip It. Although it would normally have released the movie’s score late Tuesday, when the studio lifted its embargo on full reviews, the segment was due to run early Thursday.
“We are absolutely autonomous, like any news organization,” Rotten Tomatoes spokesperson Dana Benson told the Post. “There is no outside influence on anything we put on the site.”
It should be noted that this is not the first time Rotten Tomatoes has delayed the release of its score, which is calculated based on the reviews in a variety of publications, for a movie. It did the same for A Bad Mom’s Christmas, the dismal score for which they revealed in the debut episode of See It/Skip It.
It’s also worth pointing out that the 70% of Fandago that’s not owned by Time Warner is owned by NBCUniversal, which also owns movie studios ranging from DreamWorks to Working Title (and, of course, Universal Pictures). If there were to be undue influence on the site’s editorial side, there would be plenty of places for it to come from.
While Rotten Tomatoes’ scores are undoubtedly influential due to the site’s popularity, there is considerable difference of opinion as to how accurately they reflect sentiment about movies.