Those in glass theaters shouldn’t throw tomatoes

Published 10:08 am Thursday, September 21, 2017

I happened to stumble across a New York Times article the other day entitled “Attacked by Rotten Tomatoes.” The subject of the article was, as perhaps you could have guessed by the name, about the supposed influence of the Rotten Tomatoes website on box office revenue.

To summarize in a nutshell, movies weren’t nearly as profitable this past summer as they usually are and many Hollywood executives blame this on the aforementioned review website which essentially boils whole movies down to a simple number and a “fresh” or “rotten” label.

The Times article breaks down this assumption by interviewing both movie executives and Rotten Tomato employees. There’s also a portion dedicated to discussing the history of reviewing and the economics behind the well-known review website.

It was an interesting read to me as someone who enjoys perusing through lots of television and movie reviews on a regular basis (and sometimes writing them myself). I learned some things about the industry I wasn’t aware of before, such as the similar pushback against critics when they started summarizing their reviews with five stars or less.

Afterwards I wondered for a bit if it was indeed true that a negative review would scare me away from a movie, as the Hollywood execs all seemed to say. Just as an example, one person quoted in the article seemed to believe the negative Rotten Tomatoes score for the recent Baywatch remake turned people away from the theaters before it was even given a chance. That movie got a 19 percent “rotten” score.

But honestly, I wasn’t all that interested in the Baywatch movie regardless of what critics were saying. I have no fond nostalgic memories of the original TV series, so the remake didn’t really appeal to me either. I do remember reading one review of the movie—not a flattering one for sure—but that only served to confirm what I already believed to begin with.

Reviews are pretty helpful in learning more about what you’re considering watching, but I don’t think they’re the nail in the coffin that angry Hollywood producers are claiming. There are plenty of other things to help us decide whether or not we want to spend money on a movie ticket. Trailers, commercials, posters, recommendations from friends who’ve already seen it. The “rotten” and “fresh” rating is only another thing to consider.

If Hollywood thinks the reason their movies all flopped this summer is because of one website, I invite them to consider an alternative theory: maybe they’re just not good movies.

A majority of the so-called “summer blockbusters” are either remakes or adaptations of books or comics. This isn’t always awful—as I’ve said in a previous column, I enjoy things like superhero movies and remakes if they provide a fresh perspective—but there comes a point when seeing the same story over and over again gets tiring.

Please, Hollywood, give us more diverse stories. Show us people who haven’t been prominently featured in film for the past several decades. Make the background characters into the protagonists. Try something new for once.

Maybe more people would spend money on movie tickets if they were guaranteed to see something they’ve never seen before.

Perhaps then they’d stop throwing rotten tomatoes at the silver screen.


Holly Taylor is a staff writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.