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Rotten Tomatoes fights trolls with new verified audience tool

Rotten Tomatoes fights trolls with new verified audience tool
Rotten Tomatoes will make distinct on its site the reviews by moviegoers with verified ticket purchases. (Rotten Tomatoes)

Rotten Tomatoes, which relies on credible ratings to drive traffic to its website, on Thursday took a step to prevent fake movie reviews.

The Beverly Hills-based company said it would offer a new feature that shows reviews and ratings by verified moviegoers.

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The push is part of an effort by Rotten Tomatoes to increase consumer confidence in its rating system at a time when some online trolls have tried to game the system, trashing movies they may have never seen.

Trolls previously waged campaigns to lower audience ratings for such movies as “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and the “Ghostbusters” reboot by posting negative comments to Rotten Tomatoes.

Under the new feature, moviegoers who purchased their tickets through ticket seller Fandango can enter their rating on Rotten Tomatoes through Fandango’s app or website. When they post their rating tied to the movie tickets they purchased through their Fandango account, it will appear on Rotten Tomatoes as part of the “verified audience” section. Previously, Rotten Tomatoes did not verify movie ticket purchases.

“That extra detail will be handy for users to make their moviegoing decisions,” Greg Ferris, Rotten Tomatoes’ vice president of product, said in an interview.

Rotten Tomatoes is owned by Fandango. There are more than 78 million downloads of the Fandango app on Android and iOS, Apple’s operating system. In addition to verifying tickets through Fandango's app and site, people can go to Rotten Tomatoes' website and select Fandango as the place they purchased their ticket.

Consumers who cannot verify their tickets through Fandango can still enter their reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but they will not be included under the verified audience section. Instead those ratings will factor in the “all audience” section, which includes both verified and unverified moviegoers. Reviews from verified ticket holders will also be labeled as such.

The feature will apply to new movies, such as Disney’s live action version of “Aladdin,” which opens Friday. Verified audience scores will not apply to movies that launched before Thursday.

Later this year, AMC Theatres, Regal and Cinemark will also participate, verifying moviegoers’ tickets so they can post authenticated Rotten Tomatoes reviews.

The company says it hopes to add more theater chains, and eventually add its verified audience feature to TV shows and streaming platforms.

As a result of the new verified audience feature, Fandango’s app and site will replace its 5-star fan rating system with Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings.

Rotten Tomatoes has made other updates to its site. Last year, the company increased the number of critics whose ratings are factored into its Tomatometer, where highly rated works get a full red tomato and poor ones get a green splat.

Rotten Tomatoes has also created a $100,000 grant program to help critics from underrepresented groups attend screenings and festivals.

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