When a big, expensive, beautiful movie bites it at the box office, it can be tempting to look outside the filmmaking process itself for a culprit. At the beginning of the summer, Baywatch and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales were held up by some as decent pictures dragged down by the undue influence of Rotten Tomatoes, and the effect of (hypercritical) film critics in general. However, a new study conducted by USC’s Entertainment Technology Center suggests that evidence is “pretty overwhelming in saying there was no (positive or negative) correlation in 2017 between Rotten Tomatoes Scores and box office returns.”
Yves Bergquist, the director of the center’s Data & Analytics Project, allegedly found this to be true for all 150 films released this year so far … as well as for films released all the way back to 2000. What the study did find, however, was that, as time goes by, audience scores and critics’ scores have become more and more alike. “There’s virtually no difference between critics’ scores and audiences’ scores, and the more successful the film is at the box office, the smaller the difference,” Bergquist claims. “Audiences are becoming extremely adept at predicting and judging the quality of a film.” Maybe the internet has made the average moviegoer more savvy. Maybe the popularity of remakes, reboots, and sequels has made viewers more judgemental. Or maybe, just maybe, audiences and critics were just waiting for the one film we can all agree on: the one with the interdimensional murder clown.