Where were you this Memorial Day weekend? Well, clearly not flocking to the cinemas to see the another peg-legged adventure in the latest #PiratesoftheCaribbean film or smell what The Rock has been cooking in the #Baywatch reboot. Unfortunately, it has led to the worst box office for a Memorial Day weekend on record in 20 years, and has cast a dark shadow over the industry. However, is it the movie's fault or is it those filthy critics and their poison pens?
Which is it though? Dead Men Tell No Tales was already milking the raw teat of Disney as another intoxicated Jack Sparrow bumbled around our screens with the box office poison that is #JohnnyDepp. Elsewhere, yes, Baywatch may star golden boys #ZacEfron and #DwayneJohnson, but even this can't help a premise that hasn't been relevant since Joey and Chandler used to watch the Hasselhoff show in the '90s. Therefore, it is no big surprise that neither film was the blockbuster that some had expected or the studios had wanted.
So, who shall we direct our rage at? The actors, the writers, an ambitious budget and paper-thin storyline? Nope, get your rotten tomatoes ready to throw at, well, Rotten Tomatoes.
Sink Or Swim
Deadline reports that it is the rating system applied to RT and its critics that has swayed Joe Public away from the theaters in their droves:
"Insiders close to both films blame Rotten Tomatoes, with 'Pirates 5' and 'Baywatch' respectively earning 32% and 19% Rotten. The critic aggregation site increasingly is slowing down the potential business of popcorn movies. 'Pirates 5' and 'Baywatch' aren’t built for critics but rather general audiences, and once upon a time these types of films — a family adventure and a raunchy R-rated comedy — were critic-proof. Many of those in the industry severely question how Rotten Tomatoes computes the its ratings, and the fact that these scores run on [the movie-ticket buying site] Fandango (which owns RT) is an even bigger problem."
Referring back to these two films in particular, both had their box office projections slashed at the last minute, so clearly someone, somewhere, knew this was coming. For example, Pirates was set to make $90–$100 million over the four-day weekend but washed ashore with "just" $77 million. Baywatch needed some serious mouth-to-mouth, missing out on its $50 million over five days and bringing in $23 million. Admittedly both are only confined to the US and Canada, and are sure to do better in the popcorn movie driven market of China — but it ain't looking good!
Of course the directors are looking for someone to blame, however, is Brett Ratner really the man you want as your spokesman? The X-Men: The Last Stand director is dubbed one of Hollywood's biggest duds, but even he couldn't help but slam RT in an interview with Entertainment Weekly:
"In Middle America it’s, ‘Oh, it’s a low Rotten Tomatoes score so I’m not going to go see it because it must suck.’ But that number is an aggregate and one that nobody can figure out exactly what it means, and it’s not always correct. I’ve seen some great movies with really abysmal Rotten Tomatoes scores."
Presumably the "great" movies he is referring to aren't his own?
Playing The Blame Game
Sadly, I think this is just an easy cop out when your film doesn't go quite to plan. Sure, we may look to Rotten Tomatoes for advice or read the odd article on the pros/cons of a movie, but the decision is ultimately yours to make in the end. There are no armed guards at the local cineplex, refusing entry because this film isn't yet certified "fresh."
Worryingly, there are now even reports that studios could withhold press-screenings until after a premiere, which kind of defeats the whole point of the movie critique industry. Somewhere Roger Ebert is penning a very angry letter in his grave, but sadly, as Deadline rightly says:
“There’s just not a great date on the calendar to open a poorly reviewed movie."
But isn't that your own fault, guys?
It all comes down to taste at the end of the day. 70% of the public on RT have currently said that they enjoyed Baywatch, so would the likes of Johnson and director Seth Gordon be kicking off if the critics had come to the same conclusion? Recently, Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant came under fire when overtaking the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and then taking a massive drop at the box office when the hype died down. Across the board, critics were still torn between Covenant being a masterpiece or a car crash, however, you don't see Scott throwing in his director's towel over it.
Part of the fun of watching a movie is making up your own mind and that silent car journey home after a blazing argument about who is in the wrong. If you would like to live in some Orwellian future where we're prescribed which films to watch by the government, then go ahead. Personally, I haven't seen either film and will probably wait for them to arrive on Netflix — which will be next in the firing line. I refuse to be a sheep that is lured in by cannon fire and Efron's sweet little buns in tiny red shorts.
Check out the trailer for Baywatch and don't forget our poll below!