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Rotten Tomatoes Bans User Comments Before Films’ Release

Rotten Tomatoes is finally fighting back against trolls who “review bomb” a movie ahead of its release.

As of Feb. 25, the reviews-aggregation site is no longer displaying the “Want to See” percentage score for a movie during its pre-release period. In addition, Rotten Tomatoes has disabled the ability for users to post comments prior to a movie’s release date.

The changes are intended to “more accurately and authentically represent the voice of fans, while protecting our data and public forums from bad actors,” Rotten Tomatoes said in a blog post Tuesday.

Rotten Tomatoes has been bedeviled for some time by teams of trolls who work in a coordinated fashion to drive down the “Want to See” scores of movies they take issue with. Most recently, the Rotten Tomatoes page for Disney’s “Captain Marvel” — set to debut March 8 — was littered with negative and misogynistic comments from users bashing the movie’s pro-female agenda. Before Rotten Tomatoes made the changes, “Captain Marvel” had a “Want to See” score as low as 28%.

“Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership,” Rotten Tomatoes said in its blog post. Now, instead of a percentage score, the site displays a raw number of users who have indicated that they intend to see the movie (for “Captain Marvel,” that’s 16,571 as of this writing).

“Captain Marvel,” starring Brie Larson as the first female lead in a Marvel movie, is expected to generate at least $100 million at the box office over its opening weekend in North America.

According to Rotten Tomatoes’ official statement, it eliminated the Want to See percentage score because it was sometimes confused with the Audience Score (submitted by those who have seen the movie), which is also represented as a percentage.

There’s likely another reason Rotten Tomatoes wants to discourage negative buzz for movies ahead of their release: The site is part of NBCUniversal’s Fandango, which acquired the movie-ranking site in 2016 from Warner Bros. — and negative comments and lower “Want to See” scores, whether those are from trolls or anyone else, may depress pre-release ticket sales. Warner Bros. retains a 25% stake in Rotten Tomatoes.

Once a movie is released, Rotten Tomatoes will enable user ratings and comments, showing the title’s Audience Score percentage alongside the critics’ average Tomatometer rating. The Audience Score is the percentage of all users who have rated the movie or TV show positively, meaning they’ve given it a star rating of 3.5 or higher (out of 5 stars).

Along with the troll-fighting updates, Rotten Tomatoes has made layout changes to the site. Those include a “streamlined” user interface that positions the Audience Score adjacent to the Tomatometer Score. And Rotten Tomatoes says more changes are on the way in the months ahead — including adding verified reviews from ticket purchasers.

Last August, Rotten Tomatoes launched an initiative to cast a wider net among critics included in its Tomatometer rating system, particularly to reflect women and underrepresented voices. Initially, it added 200 new critics after expanding its criteria and since launch has added more than 500 new Tomatometer-approved critics and publications.

In addition, Rotten Tomatoes established a $100,000 grant program to create more opportunities for critics serving “underrepresented groups” to cover major film festivals and gain access to press screenings. To date, Rotten Tomatoes has donated $25,000 apiece to the press-inclusion initiatives at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, 2019 Sundance Film Festival and the 2019 SXSW Film Festival and Conference next month.

Dave McNary contributed to this report.

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