Study proves that Rotten Tomatoes scores don’t affect the Box Office

2 min read

We reviewers would like to think that we provide a valuable service to the community. Taking the risk to go watch movies early, so that we can give you an informed opinion on how to better spend your hard-earned cash at cinemas. Only the average cinema-goer doesn’t seem to care because terrible films like Transformers, the latest Fast and the Furious film, films like Fifty Shades of Grey and whatever the next terrible Leon Schuster movie is, continue to make money at the cinema. Now though, we apparently have the science to prove it, as Data scientists Yves Berquist has proven that a review consolidation site like Rotten Tomatoes, has virtually no impact on box office receipts at all.

The study came about as some people in Hollywood have felt that receipts are dropping because of the existence of such sites as Rotten Tomatoes and that poor reviews of films are affecting their box office intake. It seems a little hypocritical to blame reviews for your losses when you are the one that made the bad movie in the first place. Only, as the study has shown, their frustrations are completely misplaced:

I collected box office return data through Box Office Mojo for all the 150 titles released in 2017 that grossed more than $1 million, plugged in Rotten Tomatoes Scores and Audience Scores for all titles, and looked at correlation between scores and financial performance through both a basic Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient (PMCC) analysis and some linear modeling to extract r-squares (which measure the strength of the correlation). PMCC measures the linear correlation between two variables x and y. It has a value between + 1 (100% positive correlation) and -1 (100% negative correlation, often called “inverse correlation”). The closer to 0 a PMCC score, the less correlation there is between x and y.

The result? Nope. The math is pretty overwhelming in saying there was no (positive or negative) correlation in 2017 between Rotten Tomatoes Scores and box office returns.

Now, if that statistically gibberish didn’t make sense to you, essentially all he is confirming is that a Rotten Tomato score has little bearing on a films box office receipts. The study instead goes onto attribute the reduce in box office attendance to an age of streaming entertainment and an audience that has become more demanding in what they want to see.

Which all has the words “obviously” written all over it. While I sympathise with studios losing money when the box office receipts are low, it’s a broader issue beyond threat they need to solve. As for us reviewers, we will continue slogging away knowing that our crimes of passion will continue to make a negligible difference to what you go and watch anyway. Someone please pass the tissues.

Last Updated: September 13, 2017

Craig Risi

A man of many talents, but no sense how to use them. I could be discovering the cure for aids or finding ways to achieve world peace, but I'd rather be watching movies and writing here instead.

  • MonsterCheddar

    If something looks good I will watch it, or wait for DVD, and make up my own mind. Cinemas are just for really epic movies, due to pricing.

    I don’t care how many rotten tomatoes there are.

  • Did we really need a study?

    • miaau

      That is what my wife said. Now we use to lock away all the stuff the kids want to break, like Violins (toddler plays, but only under supervision) and paintings and stuff.

      So, yes, we needed the study.

  • MonsterCheddar

    Wait….is this also a “passion article” ?

  • Original Heretic

    People who don’t read reviews are stupid.
    A good review (yes, CH guys and gals, I’m referring to y’all when I write this!) can determine whether or not you walk out of a movie feeling like you just watched a cool movie or walk out there feeling like you wasted money of a steaming pile of manure. The last time I made THAT mistake was The Last Airbender.

    • Magoo

      On the other hand, I really enjoyed The Last Airbender. I’m sure you’ve enjoyed a few that weren’t well-received too. For that reason alone I disagree with you that people are “stupid” for not reading reviews. I mean it’s always better to know what you’re getting into, but if a new Harry Potter airs, I’m not gonna be that one guy in my friend group saying “I didn’t watch it because it got bad reviews.”

      • Original Heretic

        I’m not at all saying that I will not watch a movie that has received bad reviews. But if a movie is panned by all critics, I won’t spend a few hundred bucks to watch it on the big screen.
        Hells man, even if Star Wars gets bad reviews, despite the fact that it’ll be “better on the big screen”, I’d rather wait for DVD release.
        I hate getting bored while watching a movie, especially if I’m stuck in a theater watching it.

  • Honestly… and Kervyn will hate me for this.

    But I stopped listening to the typical movie reviewers years ago. The average idiot, like myself, doesn’t care about camera angles, artistic merit or musical composition. We don’t care that Professional Actor A lost or gained weight to do a part.

    We care if the movie is entertaining and worth the small fee to watch it.

    As long as movie reviewers keep dogging on Fast and the Furious, Leon Schuster or whatever the next skiet, skop en donner movie is then they’ll continue to be ignored by the mass market,

    Movies, and games, are about entertainment. When you take the fun out of a movie what’s actually left?

    • MonsterCheddar
    • the shame!

    • konfab

      Entertainment certainly isn’t just fun because life isn’t fun and games. We love drama, horror and ceaseless violence because they are all part of life.

      If you really wanted a good measure of success of a film or a game, it would be how strongly does it match an archetypal story. The best games I have played are all perfect examples of the hero’s journey. (Which is why I think Journey is the best game ever made, because it follows the hero’s journey to the letter without minimal distractions. )

      • Journey? the walking simulator?

        • konfab

          That one.

          But your simple description would also describe:
          Shadow of the Colossus -the horse riding simulator.
          Splatoon – the painting simulator.
          Destiny 2 -the bullet-proof vest simulator.

    • Hey, I like most of the F&F movies! They’re live-action 1980s cartoons! And I’m the first guy in line for skop, skiet en donner movies. Have you not seen me losing my crap over things like The Raid and John Wick?

      You lost me on the Leon Schuster though. Those movies can all die in a fire.

      • John Wick is cerebral damnit…

        • John Wick, the movie which has a plot you can write in entirety on the back of a matchbox, is cerebral. Riiiiiiiiight.

      • miaau

        “You lost me on the Leon Schuster though. Those movies can all die in a fire.”

        I thought they did? Imagine my surprise the other day when I see an advert for a brand new one. I have never enojyed them.

        I actually think the man is quite clever, having seen him in multiple interviews and the like. He understands people and how we interact with one another.

    • Magoo

      You tell them Gavin! ADAM SANDLER AIN’T SO BAD!

  • konfab

    I don’t really agree with the conclusion.
    The stats in the article say that a film’s RT score is correlated to the revenue.

    The author states that RT doesn’t affect the revenue of the film solely because the critical score being correlated to the the RT score makes it difficult to determine the impact. This implies the author thinks that critical scores matter more than RT scores. Which is quite an assumption.

    The author also contradicts himself by stating the 2017 scores have a low correlation, but then goes on and states that the previous years have a strong correlation (albeit highly variable)

    My take on it, is that Rotten Tomatoes, like critics simply predict the revenue because they tell the truth about how good a film is.

  • Jan Heller

    With all the movies I’ve seen, I’ve only agreed with them once. And hesitated going to see that movie, just because they loved it so much.

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