How does CinemaScore work? Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and Metacritic Explained (2023)

"Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes" seems to be the most popular line of marketing campaigns for most movies, big and small, these days, but what exactly does that little number on the "Tomatometer" mean? The way tomato ratings are now blown up so loosely has created a lot of misconceptions about what they really represent, and it's become more skewed as more review aggregators have emerged. From rotten touches to letter grades to accurate numerical values, moviegoers' primary sources of film criticism now offer more variety.

Although this, of course, leads to more confusion and skepticism about the validity of such assessments. "How can the CinemaScore be so high when it's not even Certified Fresh?" The examples go on and on and on and on and on and on. Well, if you've ever wondered where CinemaScore letter grades come from or how Metacritic does its calculations with movie reviews, then you're in luck because we at DiscussingFilm have broken it all down. And if you already think you know the answer, the truth might be a little more complicated than you'd expect. Discover the Rotten Tomatoes, CinemaScore, Metacritic and IMDB scores below and clear up any misconceptions you may have from the major review aggregators.

Rotten tomatoes

Rotten tomatoesno introduction needed. everyone is familiar with the infamous Tomatometer. So what does this number mean? Let's dive in.

When any movie's Rotten Tomatoes page shows two percentages, theTomato meterandAudience rating. This differentiation is important.

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How does CinemaScore work? Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and Metacritic Explained (1)

Tomato meter

On the left, the Tomatometer comes with either a "fresh" tomato, a regular tomato, or a splattered one based on its rating. This number is not a rating, but an average measure of enjoyment. it's thepercentage of positive reviews by approved reviewers. If these reviewers do not submit their reviews themselves, it is up to the specially hired editors to collect and count the number of fresh or rotten reviews in order to generate Tomatometer scores.

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To be "Certified Fresh", a film must score consistently above 75% and have at least 80 reviews for major releases or 40 reviews for limited releases. The overall total (regardless of score) must also include five or more reviews from the site's top reviewers, who are described as"Well established, influential and productive."

Unless it meets the above criteria, the Tomatometer will display a red tomato until its rating drops below 60%, at which point it is considered Rotten.

Audience rating

The audience rating, likewise, ispercentage of positive reviews from the public. For movies in theaters, Rotten Tomatoes will ask users to verify ticket purchases before submitting a review in order to create "Verified Reviews," which are less vulnerable to spam reviews. An "All Audience Rating" consists of all ratings with or without verified ticket purchase and therefore may be subject to fraudulent reviews, made to artificially inflate or deflate a movie's rating.

To calculate the audience score, Rotten Tomatoes considers reviews above 3.5 to be positive and those below that to be negative.

Like the Tomatometer, shows or movies with 60% positive reviews will display a full popcorn bucket and a flip bucket when it falls below that threshold. Audience Ratings are only available for movies that are publicly available and have "enough ratings to generate a rating".

For more information on Tomatometer, click herehere.


How does CinemaScore work? Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and Metacritic Explained (2)

Founded in 1978, CinemaScore is still one of the most popular measures of a sense of audience reaction to a film. Commonly seen on social media platforms as a stylish graphic with a letter grade next to a movie poster, many have never stopped to wonder where that grade comes from:

How does CinemaScore work? Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and Metacritic Explained (3)

In short, it comes from this card, given to the audience on the opening night of a movie.

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In a "regionally balanced and statistically robust" variety of theaters in the United States and Canada, audiences are given the above card and asked to note their immediate reactions before handing it in upon departure. Scores are then averaged and announced at the end of the film's opening weekend.

Unlike online aggregation or submission sites, CinemaScore is calculated through a real-world poll. Considering the fact that it is held on the opening night of a film, this means that repeat viewings and casual viewers are negligible in the final score. It also means it's less about the overall quality of a film and more about an underdeveloped initial reaction.

To put it better, CinemaScore is a tool for measuring how satisfied a willing audience is: that's why most blockbusters are expected to do quite well. If an audience gets what they expect, it is more likely to receive a higher rating, thus making it important for studios to evaluate its successmarketing campaigns.

CinemaScore's secondary purpose is to "gather demographic information" making it valuable for studios and media to measureWHEREyou just watch these movies.

For more information about CinemaScore, you canvisit their website.


How does CinemaScore work? Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and Metacritic Explained (4)

Unlike the aforementioned review tools, Metacritic hosts scores for games, movies, TV shows, and music, which are generally calculated the same way. The twist here is that it uses Metacriticweighted averages, meaning that some reviews are weighted more heavily in the overall score than others.

Certain publications and reviewers are favored "on the basis of their quality and overall stature." The priority on established authors means that smaller outlets and less developed voices are undervalued when calculating a Metascore. Metacritic re-evaluates the list of included releases several times each year, but does not disclose the weighted order of different critics in the Metascore formula.

Metacritic employees rate each publication's review of a particular piece of content from 0-100 and then plug them into the Metascore formula, which is then adjusted according to a normalization calculation. As described in theirofficial FAQ: “Normalization causes scores to be spread over a wider range, rather than clustered together. Generally, higher scores are pushed higher and lower scores are pushed lower.” Take it as you will.

There is also the color coding system! Scores from 0-39 will appear as red, 40-60 as yellow and 61-100 as green.

Films with a Metascore above 81 after being reviewed by 15 or more publications are awarded the Metacritic "Must-See" Award. According to Metacritic, "about 5% of films in Metacritic's database achieve this elite status."

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Additionally, reviews from regular website visitors do not count towards a Metascore. This is a quality measure for reviewers only.

For more information on the arbitrary measure that is Metascore, clickhere.

Reviews on IMDb

How does CinemaScore work? Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and Metacritic Explained (5)

Appearing at the top of every listed movie's home page, the IMDb rating is one of the first things to pop up in a quick Google search for a movie title. It's a quick, easy way to gauge whether people like the movie or not, but where does that number come from?

Turns out it's not that complicated. All registered users are allowed to submit reviews for all movies and contribute to the IMDb rating. That said, votes related to "suspicious voting activity" may be given a lower weight in the overall average "in order to maintain credibility" of the overall score.

Since all reviews are attached to registered accounts, IMDb allows ratings to be broken down by age, gender, and US or non-US users. This makes for some interesting data, although it's not as reliable as CinemaScore since it's unverified and impersonal.

You can find the FAQ for IMDb ratingshere.

Follow the authorChris St. Lawrenceon Twitter:@ey2studios

CinemaScoreMetacriticalop-edrotten tomatoes

How does CinemaScore work? Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and Metacritic Explained (6)

Chris St Lawrence

Cinematographer, viewer and connoisseur of cinema who lives it in New York.

(Video) Guess the Rotten Tomatoes Score from the Movie (with Eden Burke)


How does CinemaScore work? ›

CinemaScore typically receives about 400 cards per film; the company estimates a 65% response rate and 6% margin of error. An overall grade of "A+" and "F" is calculated as the average of the grades given by responders.

What is the difference between IMDb Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic? ›

Besides IMDb, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes are the top two websites to which people turn to see aggregate scores of movies' ratings but, whereas IMDb's scores are based on users' ratings, Metacritic's and Rotten Tomatoes' main scores are based on reviewers' ratings.

What is the difference between Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes? ›

Both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes calculate film ratings based on reviews from film critics. Metacritic generally samples fewer film critics than does Rotten Tomatoes, and uses a weighted average as a rating.

Why are IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes scores so different? ›

IMDb includes reviews of movies, TV shows and web series which shall be examined by regular users. Unlike this one, Rotten Tomatoes have restricted the reviewing to critics and professionals. The ratings tend to differ based on the reviewers.


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