You may have heard that online movie ticket seller Fandango just purchased Rotten Tomatoes and Flixster. But you may not have heard the bad news: Fandango will probably ruin Rotten Tomatoes.


The number-crunching nerds over at FiveThirtyEight compared the movie ratings on Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes a few months ago. And since Fandango has a financial incentive to get butts into movie theater seats (they’re owned by NBCUniversal, by the way) its movie reviews are some of the most favorable on the web.

Graph from FiveThirtyEight, used with permission

“Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes are invaluable resources for movie fans, and we look forward to growing these successful properties, driving more theatrical ticketing and super-serving consumers with all their movie needs,” Fandango President Paul Yanover said in a statement.


Note the emphasis on “driving more theatrical ticketing.” Translation: Sell more movie tickets. Probable translation of the translation: Give movies better ratings since Rotten Tomatoes can cause a movie to tank at the box office.

There are a lot of “ifs” at this point. There’s no word on how or even whether the two sites will merge, but one has to believe that whatever happens, Fandango wants to keep people buying more movie tickets and will be forced to bump up ratings on Rotten Dango (or whatever they call it) at least a little.

Movie reviews tend to look for balance and can be taken out of context at the very least. Just look at the ridiculous things that movie marketers will do to turn a shitty review into a positive one.

It’s basically impossible for any movie on Fandango to currently get less than three stars. As Walt Hickey at FiveThirtyEight explains, “So for all intents and purposes, Fandango is using a 3 to 5 star scale. And that’s not the only thing wrong with its ratings.”



Head over to FiveThirtyEight for the full analysis, including the phrase, “Maybe we really do live in a society that rates ‘Mortdecai’ as a 3.5-star film?”

Hickey assures us that we don’t. But with the sale of Rotten Tomatoes we might soon gaze into that horrifying alternate reality.


RIP Rotten Tomatoes.