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Rotten Tomatoes changes up the formula, adds 200 critics in new diversity push

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Aug 28, 2018, 5:11 PM EDT

Amid Rotten Tomatoes’ ascent to a place of prominence on film studios’ list of priorities when marketing their next aspiring box office smash, there’s been plenty of criticism about how the aggregator service influences a movie’s public perception. 

The site’s Tomatometer rating system has attracted slings and arrows on multiple fronts: for occasionally withholding Tomatometer scores until a movie’s nearly in theaters (as happened with Justice League); for fending off alleged bot and user-orchestrated spam attacks aimed at tanking the Tomatometer score (i.e. the case of The Last Jedi); and simply for having what some view as too diluted a pool of quality film reviewers in its professional critics’ mix. 

On that last point, at least, Rotten Tomatoes just made a definitive statement about the direction it plans to take its sanctioned critics list — and the critic pool is about to get even bigger. The New York Times reports the aggregator, which is owned by Fandango (which in turn is owned by NBCUniversal, parent company of SYFY WIRE), has added more than 200 new reviewers in the hope of bringing a more inclusive set of voices to reflect the diversity of its audience. 

“It will always be a better product if it has more voices,” Fandango president Paul Yanover explained to NYT, repudiating the idea that adding more critics will water down the site’s overall mix of reliable reviewers. “We are still looking for the highest quality criticism.”

New critics on RT’s list reflect not only greater demographic diversity, but also the diversity of media platforms and genre interests. “Among the 200 new Tomatometer-approved critics are people like Bernard Boo, who writes for sites like Film Threat, PopMatters and Den of Geek, and Luciana Mangas, who reviews television shows for the site Writes of the Roundtable,” NYT reports, noting the site also has begun welcoming freelancers and podcasters, too.

The move indicates Rotten Tomatoes is aware of its outsized power in influencing the marketing habits of film studios (if not the viewing habits of actual moviegoers), and that it’s banking on the benefits that could attend a broadening of the chorus of professional voices who contribute to its vaunted Tomatometer score. And, of course, the audience itself will continue to have its say: it doesn’t look like the site’s separate, user-based Tomatometer rating is going anywhere anytime soon.