Rotten Tomatoes won’t be revealing Justice League‘s Tomatometer score until Thursday, over a day after the review embargo actually lifts. The DCEU team-up isn’t just one of the most anticipated films of the year, but specifically, one that audiences are eager to read reviews of considering the franchise’s varied reception previously and the Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon production’s turbulent journey to the big screen.
The social media embargo lifted last Friday, giving fans the very first reactions to the film (which were mixed with a positive skew) but the full review embargo doesn’t lift until Tuesday, 11/14 at 11:50 pm PST/ 2:50 am EST on Wednesday, 11/15. That’s quite late for such a major tentpole – less than two days before the first public screenings – which along with the overnight reveal (meaning there’ll be less online traffic) has suggested to some that there’s a fear about a negative appraisal. And while we’ll be able to get a taste of the consensus then, the traditional barometer won’t be read until almost 36 hours after that.
Rather than publishing the Tomatometer score (a number calculated by averaging out the positive and negative assessments of a film) immediately as reviews come in post-embargo, Rotten Tomatoes will instead be saving the reveal of the score until 12:01am EST on Thursday 11/16 as part of the site’s new Facebook show See It/Skip It. That means the score won’t be known until just seven hours before the first screenings.
To be clear, this isn’t part of a further embargo on Warner Bros. part. Indeed, Justice League isn’t the first film to receive this treatment; during the debut See It/Skip It episode, presenting duo Segun Oduolowu and Jacqueline Coley unveiled the Tomatometer score for A Bad Mom’s Christmas and last week gave a much-belated classification to Star Trek: The Original Series. However, Justice League is a considerably bigger deal than either of those given the size of the release and the DCEU’s complicated history with the service; last year saw the financially successful Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad languish on 27% and 26%, respectively.
Of course, as is well covered, the Tomatometer isn’t really important. Its aggregation method is too simplistic and the medium of cinema too subjective for any single number to tell us that much about a film. Nevertheless, the percentage has become an important part of the Hollywood hype machine, giving a general consensus of critical opinion and as a result, often been used on a film’s marketing; leading to complaints it’s impacted box office takings. Evidently, to delay releasing it has a big impact on the conventional release build-up.
Now, this decision could have some positives. An early Rotten Tomatoes score can be misrepresentative, especially when an embargo drops well in advance; not every critic has seen or reviewed the film in question, so the sample size is smaller and the initial number can be skewed, which may in turn influence others’ opinion. The move instead puts focus on the reviews in that initial period (and, naturally, those desperate to know the metric could work out an average themselves). It could be thus argued that the site is trying to avoid misuse of its service. However, that’s not really the case.
Rotten Tomatoes aren’t delaying the reveal to try and reduce any misleading conclusions – they’re actually playing into the false sense of importance around the Tomatometer to draw more eyes to their newly-launched online show; their previous two episodes have treated the numbers involved as more sacrosanct than even the most overzealous outlets and the drumroll is most-certainly a hype-building trick. After all, if this was about protecting art from their negative influence, they wouldn’t do it for a select few films.
This is particularly worrying as the move takes Rotten Tomatoes from being an aggregator and more directly into the critical sphere; its hosts provide their own opinions and the Tomatometer is treated like a definitive stamp, as opposed to the suggestive percentage it really is. That’s a power shift around an already controversial metric, making the entire enterprise more about the website itself than the reviews it’s cataloging. And, considering that they’re owned by Fandango (a company that relies on ticket sales, further co-owned by film companies Warner Bros. and Universal), has the ability to be abused by keeping potentially damaging ratings held back.
Source: Rotten Tomatoes