Is there something rotten on Rotten Tomatoes?
The new film Gotti, starring John Travolta as infamous crime boss John Gotti, has been brutalized by critics, earning it a 0 percent freshness rating on the popular movie-review aggregation site. The audience score on the site, however, has it at a crisp 74 percent positive rating.
Screen Junkies film critic Dan Murrell pointed out the discrepancy on Twitter, saying, "Okay, I'll just come out and say it. Some party involved with Gotti artificially manipulated the audience scores and they're now using it as a marketing strategy. The numbers don't make sense. Even if that weren't true, this is a divisive & desperate way to sell a film."
The official Twitter account for Gotti seemed to be playing on the wildly opposing critic and audience scores with a tweet reading, "Audiences loved Gotti but critics don't want you to see it… The question is why??? Trust the people and see it for yourself!"
The Gotti tweet calls out critics, referring to them as trolls behind a keyboard, but doesn't specifically point to Rotten Tomatoes.
Rotten Tomatoes is owned by movie-ticket company Fandango. "We've looked into this and all of the ratings have been left by real users," Fandango spokeswoman Dana Benson said.
A Reddit user named wunder_3 took a deeper dive into the Rotten Tomatoes reviews powering the audience score, noting the movie has over 6,900 user reviews, a huge number for a film with a small opening and low attendance. Compare that with Incredibles 2, the weekend's biggest blockbuster, which has just over 7,600 user reviews.
Wunder_3 examined the first 58 reviewers with accessible profile pages and found 45 of them had created their accounts in June and the majority had only reviewed Gotti.
Out of the 58 users, seven had also reviewed just one other movie, American Animals. Both Gotti and American Animals were co-released by MoviePass Ventures, a film acquisition and marketing arm of theater subscription pass service MoviePass.
"The MoviePass marketing team is only engaged in sending promotional emails and push notifications to our users," MoviePass spokesman Jackson Budinger said. "We have no further involvement from a marketing perspective and have no insight or information about who is providing the audience reviews to Rotten Tomatoes."
CNET's sister site Metacritic, meanwhile, currently has Gotti rated at 24 out of 100 by critics, but has logged only three written user reviews and 12 user scores total, evenly split between positive and negative.
First published June 19, 11:50 a.m. PT.
Update, June 19, 9 p.m. PT: Adds statement from MoviePass.
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