- Bunker 15, a film PR company, tried to boost the Rotten Tomatoes score of the movie Ophelia by paying lesser-known critics for positive reviews.
- Rotten Tomatoes noticed the manipulation and removed the suspicious reviews, sending a strong warning to the reviewers involved.
- Despite the influence of Rotten Tomatoes scores on a film’s success, it still includes lower-profile reviewers, making its dominance in the movie review industry likely to continue.
A movie PR company bribed Rotten Tomatoes reviewers and now faces the consequences. Active since 1998, Rotten Tomatoes is among the most popular review-aggregation websites. Films seek to be “Certified Fresh” on the website, an honor awarded only to those who are able to achieve a Tomatometer that remains over 75%.
Per Vulture, a film PR company attempted to scam their way into better film reviews. Back in 2018, a film PR company named Bunker 15 was responsible for the publicity of reimagined Shakespeare tale Ophelia. At the time of its release, Ophelia received a rotten 40% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Bunker 15 sought to change that by reaching out to lesser known critics to review the film. As one reviewer exposed, Ophelia “would benefit from more input from different critics – with some of them allegedly paid. As a result, Ophelia’s Rotten Tomatoes score rose from 40% to 62%.
What the Bunker 15 Case Says About Rotten Tomatoes
Bunker 15 went to extreme lengths to catapult Ophelia to a fresh (over 60%) Tomatometer. When one reviewer gave the film a negative review, Bunker 15 supposedly advocated for the reviewer to “give it a (barely) overall positive” review as a Bunker 15 representative allegedly claimed, “I do know the editors at Rotten Tomatoes and can get it switched.” The positive reviews then paid off for Ophelia, as the film gained a U.S. distributor in IFC Films.
Bunker 15’s manipulative efforts did not go unnoticed by Rotten Tomatoes. The website took a number of Bunker 15 reviews off of the website and sent a strongly-worded warning to those reviews’ authors: “We take the integrity of our scores seriously and do not tolerate any attempts to manipulate them. We have a dedicated team who monitors our platforms regularly and thoroughly investigates and resolves any suspicious activity.”
As evidenced by Ophelia’s distribution deal, it is clear that the website’s scores do have significant sway on the success of some films. This influence, however, should be taken with a grain of salt as Rotten Tomatoes still allows for lower-profile reviewers to count towards the critic score. Even so, Rotten Tomatoes is still a dominant review site, and will likely remain so for some time.