The Case of the Missing Movie Reviews: LA Times and Rotten Tomatoes

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What happened to the missing movie reviews? The LA Times did not have a review for one of the biggest movies of the year, “Thor: Ragnarock.” And in the same week, moviegoers saw something unusual on Rotten Tomatoes when they searched for a review of “Bad Moms Christmas.” For a day after tickets were available and the movie was being shown, no reviews were on the site. What gives?

There are two very different answers. The LA Times was barred from covering “Thor: Ragnarock” because Disney, which produced the film and owns Marvel, did not like a story the paper did on its Anaheim theme park. This is an awful precedent and likely to produce more bad publicity for Disney than if they just left it alone.

As for Rotten Tomatoes, early speculation that there was some plot afoot to avoid bad reviews turned out to be wrong. The only entity attempting to maintain some leverage was Rotten Tomatoes itself, and its premiere of a new movie review web series. According to a Forbes investigation by Scott Mendelson:

Rotten Tomatoes debuted a new Facebook movie review show on Thursday night. And as part of that show, which features Jacqueline Coley and Segun Oduolowu sparring over new movies and TV shows for around seven minutes, Rotten Tomatoes will select one new movie or TV show and reveal that film or show’s Tomatometer score on the webcast itself. In this case, since the embargo for A Bad Moms Christmas was essentially 15 hours before the broadcast, they chose that newbie as the exclusive “unveiling” title. Maybe next week it’ll be Paramount/Viacom Inc.’s Daddy’s Home 2, which I imagine will also have an embargo pretty close to the Nov. 10 release date. Or maybe they will pick something with a long-lead embargo that doesn’t open for a bit. We can expect much hand-wringing if they select the obvious pick for Nov. 17 as the “keep away” title.

I spoke with my Rotten Tomatoes contacts, who assured me that this is not any kind of under-the-table deal with studios and that Rotten Tomatoes will not be holding back reviews and scores until a film’s or TV show’s opening day as a matter of course.

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