I was wasting valuable time on Facebook and came across this article via the Vanity Fair page, and found myself feeling quite fed up about the whole thing. In a nutshell, Hollywood is ticked off that Rotten Tomatoes is impacting box office sales quite dramatically. Bad reviews are driving down ticket sales and so on. Content collaboration is evil!
Furthermore, the studios are now looking for a “way round it”, which stupefied me even more. That’s a bit like being the little boy that tried to plug the water leak with his finger, a fatuous exercise if ever there was one.
We all know Hollywood exists in a bubble, but even they must have heard of Trip Advisor. We’ve heard (and probably mocked, be honest) hotel owners bemoan the lack of fairness around personal reviews. However the truth is that highly biased reviews stick out like a sore thumb, and most people will disregard them.
My favourite part of the article is the final bit, where VF say “Hey, how about you stop blaming a ratings website, and create some great, original movies instead.”
The studio’s argument is that movie reviews by critics (which drive the ratings on RT), aren’t written by the people the movie is targeting, but instead by (and I’m using their words) “middle aged white men”. So if you’re a female critic, or under 45, then apparently you don’t count as a movie critic.
That means however that they are missing another point, one website that heavily ranks movies is IMDB, which is all (as far as I know) user generated reviews. So, let’s look at how they compare:
(RT is out of 100%, IMDB marks out of 10)
RT Rating: 92%
IMDB Rating: 8.1 (81% – in case it’s not obvious)
All Eyez on Me (no, me neither)
RT Rating: 22%
IMDB Rating: 6.1
Transformers: The Last Knight
RT Rating: 15% (Ouch)
IMDB Rating: 5.3
There is a difference, unsurprisingly since they come from different sources, but relatively speaking they are the same. I.e. when a movie is poorly ranked on RT, it gets a lower ranking score on IMDB in proportion to better movies. I’m not claiming this is at all scientific, but it’s probably as much effort as most people would be prepared to put in before spending cold, hard cash at the cinema. (Well, OK, effortlessly slide their contactless card over the terminal).
If it’s young people they are concerned about, then they should place as much importance to IMDB as they do to RT. I know quite a few people that won’t go to the cinema if a movie has a score of less than 8 out of 10 for instance (all under 25), and they’ll look at both sites to get a good idea of the quality of the movie.
As the world becomes more collaborative, and people have more access to the technology that enables this type of peer review activity, this issue is not going to go away. In the same way that Trip Advisor has not gone away (of course it’s done the opposite), and the movie industry is in danger of looking like whiny children that aren’t getting their way, or worse, the bad guys.
Much as the entertainment industry had to look to embrace (one would never say willingly) digital downloads and streaming (eventually) when they failed to legislate it out of existence, the movie sub-sector has to accept that content collaboration is here to stay.
It must be a painful shift, moving from central command and utter control, to a market where the end user has more choice, more control and a louder voice.
Much in the same way that organisations are having to improve their content, movie makers have to do the same if they want the movies to be better received. And here is where they could take content collaboration even further. Why not create sites where people can contribute ideas? Reddit is a great example of this, as they have a great sub called “Writing Prompts” where people submit a synopsis of a plot, and other users write texts in response. The best ones get upvoted to the top of the thread, completely collaborative and user driven.
The more you can embrace collaborative working, the better your content could be. The more you open up your content to review, the better, and the more likely it will be shared.
And my final word to the studios (not that I have their ear I’m sure!)? Once you realise that your movies will be judged by the reviews they get, both of critics and viewers, stop trying to legislate it out of existence, or change it, embrace it and start creating movies that people want to watch.
Oh, and the same goes for corporate content too.