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Rotten Tomatoes will no longer allow audiences to review movies before release

Among other changes the review aggregator is making to audience reviews

Tomatoey Photo by Chaloner Woods/Getty Images
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Rotten Tomatoes has made major changes to its audience rating system, the movie review aggregator announced today. Those changes include eliminating the ability to leave an audience member review before the movie is released to theaters, i.e., before it could have an audience.

Rotten Tomatoes is positioning the changes as “fan” oriented, saying that the site’s goal is to “deliver a best-in-class destination for fans to share their opinions of movies and TV Shows, while connecting with other fans in a thoughtful community of pop culture lovers.”

Rotten Tomatoes has built its fame on its “Tomatometer” scores, which are based on an aggregation of verified film critic reviews, and determine whether a film is certified “fresh” or the dreaded “rotten.” Audience review scores, based on user-submitted reviews and ratings, do not determine a film’s fresh or rotten rating, but are displayed alongside its critic-derived average on Rotten Tomatoes.

And in the past couple of years, Rotten Tomatoes’ audience review scores have frequently made news for being the opposite of a thoughtful conversation. The site’s audience scores have been high-profile targets of review-bombing campaigns, the practice of tanking the audience review score in an organized wave, usually over an ideological disagreement with the movie’s creators or its perceived content. On Rotten Tomatoes, these campaigns often begin before movies are released to theaters and before any of the participants could have seen them.

Review bombing efforts have been observed in the audience scores of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Black Panther, and in the run up to both Captain Marvel and even Star Wars: Episode IX, which won’t be released until December 2019 and does not even have an official title yet.

Rotten Tomatoes’ first changes, implemented today, take a big swipe at review bombing, by removing the ability to review a movie before its theatrical release. Today’s complete changes, as listed in Rotten Tomatoes’ press release, follow:

Streamlined user interface that positions the Audience Score adjacent to the Tomatometer Score, which represents the collective opinions of thousands of professional critics, giving fans easy access to compare and contrast critic’s and fan’s view of movies and TV shows.

Prior to a movie’s release, fans will no longer be able to leave written comments or reviews. That functionality will be available once the movie releases into theaters.

The fan “want to see” score, which was previously represented as a percentage, will now be presented as a raw number that will be tallied in real time. This change seeks to eliminate the confusion that sometimes occurred between the “want to see” score and the “audience score” which is also represented as a percentage.

Throughout the roll out of new audience rating features, Rotten Tomatoes will call out enhancements on the site and link to a product update blog, where users can find explanations.

The review aggregator will continue to roll out more changes to the way audience reviews are handled on the site, including “verified reviews from ticket purchasers,” which would seem to imply a system by which audience reviewers are able to prove they have seen the movie in question.

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