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Disney weighs in on divided audience response to Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Contributed by
Dec 18, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been out since Thursday, and one of the biggest headlines surrounding the film -- other than its incredible box office performance -- has been how divisive the film is proving to be among fandom. Or at least, how divisive it seems to be. 

When it comes to the film's reception, different sources are telling different stories. On Rotten Tomatoes, the popular film review aggregator site holds an impressive 93 percent "Fresh" rating among critics, meaning the majority of professional reviewers liked the film. In contrast, the audience reviews on the site are only 56 percent, which could lead you to believe that almost half of viewers didn't care for the film.

That isn't the whole story, though. Rotten Tomatoes' user ratings are open to any viewer of the film, but not every viewer is going to log on and rate what they just saw. It's also possible for viewers to log in under multiple names and issue multiple ratings in an effort to drive a film's score down. In fact, one particular Facebook account claimed to have done this, using bots to keep turning in negative ratings of the film and lower its score. So, while some viewers certainly walked away from The Last Jedi disappointed by the film, it's important to note that Rotten Tomatoes' viewer rating system isn't exactly an ironclad source.

To prove that, we have the film's CinemaScore grade, which currently sits at an "A," just like The Force Awakens earned two years ago. CinemaScore does not rely on online comments. Rather, they send trained pollsters to 25 different cities and ask for reactions from audience members as soon as they leave the theater. Ultimately, the goal is to sample 400 to 600 people from five randomly selected theaters. It's a scientific method that CinemaScore has been perfecting for decades.

So, on the one hand, we have online users that we can't see possibly duplicating themselves to generate a desired result, and on the other we have people offering their honest reaction to a market research company that's been around forever. This does not mean that everyone actually loved the movie apart from a few random trolls. It does, however, mean we maybe shouldn't label The Last Jedi as divisive as some want to think it is.

As for Disney, which just made hundreds of millions of dollars in a single weekend, they're just happy people are buying tickets.

“Rian Johnson, the cast, and the Lucasfilm team have delivered an experience that is totally Star Wars yet at the same time fresh, unexpected and new," Disney president of theatrical distribution Dave Hollis told Deadline. "That makes this a Star Wars film like audiences have never seen – it’s got people talking, puzzling over its mysteries, and it’s a lot to take in, and we see that as all positive, that should help set the film up for great word-of-mouth and repeat viewing as we enter the lucrative holiday period.”