"Gotti" bombed with critics and with audiences over the weekend, only managing to gross $1.6 million from 503 theaters, yet it's suspiciously popular on Rotten Tomatoes with the few people who claim to have seen it.
However, the "Gotti" marketing team categorically denied "padding" the audience reviews in a statement to TooFab, amid growing suspicion over exactly how the movie got such a high user score on RT.
The disparity between the really bad professional reviews and the glowing user reviews came into question in wake of a new marketing strategy, which sums up a professional movie critic as "a troll behind a keyboard." On Monday, the movie's Twitter account began arguing "critics don't want you to see it" and encouraged all 932 followers to "trust the people and see it for yourself!"
The John Travolta crime biopic, chronicling the rise and fall of New York mobster John Gotti, failed to impress any professional critics who gave it a shot, sitting not-so-pretty with a 0 percent approval rating from 26 bad reviews. Meanwhile, it has managed to secure a 73 percent approval rating from 6,941 users who weighed in on the audience score.
For comparison, "The Incredibles 2" debuted in theaters the same weekend with glowing reviews from professional critics and ultimately grossed a record-shattering $180 million from 4,410 theaters. So far, 7,637 RT users have offered an audience score -- only about 700 more than "Gotti."
Regarding the extreme disparity, TooFab contacted "Gotti" director Kevin Connelly and production company Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films for comment.
Dennis Rice, head of marketing for the film, told us, "We absolutely did not do anything to pad the audience reactions. I believe we created a very compelling campaign."
Rice went on to not only defend his film but also criticize Rotten Tomatoes: "We don't need to contrive anything. What we do have is a very passionate audience in the markets where we promoted. The other thing that's happening is I find it odd that Rotten Tomatoes would only post 26 reviews. When we went to Chicago and had critics review the movie and positively review the movie, they're not putting [those] up there."
It should be noted -- RT users don't need to leave a written review to be counted in the audience score, they can simply give it a star rating after it hits theaters. Even before the movie comes out, users affect the audience score just by clicking "want to see" or "not interested."
Meanwhile, the film's campaign -- as previously mentioned -- sent out on Twitter a quick video promo (below), concluding with the following question: "Who would you trust more? Yourself or a troll behind a keyboard?"
Audiences loved Gotti but critics don't want you to see it… The question is why??? Trust the people and see it for yourself! pic.twitter.com/K6a9jAO4UH
As a result of "Gotti" boasting its RT audience score, people are looking at those user reviews with extra scrutiny, like Screen Junkies movie critic Dan Murrell.
Okay, I'll just come out and say it. Some party involved with Gotti artificially manipulated the audience scores and they're now using it as a marketing strategy. The numbers don't make sense. Even if that weren't true, this is a divisive & desperate way to sell a film. https://t.co/Q5jznjNRSx
If you didn't see my earlier thread - Gotti's user ratings on Rotten Tomatoes were extremely abnormal for any film of its size. This is now obviously part of a concerted marketing strategy to discredit its abysmal reviews and paint critics as out of touch. That's really pathetic.
When TooFab clicked on profiles of the people who have left 5-star reviews, we noticed many of those users had only reviewed "Gotti" or we were greeted with "Page Not Found" above a sad looking green tomato splat, which according to a RT spokeswoman, means those profiles were set to private.
A Reddit user did some digging on those audience review accounts and uncovered that of the first 58 reviews at the time of their investigation, 45 of them had been created this month. Of those, “Gotti” was the only review for 32 accounts, with another seven reviewing just one other movie, "American Animals."
The common denominator between the two films is MoviePass. "American Animals" was the first film the movie-ticket-subscription company took a financial stake in, while "Gotti" is their latest joint venture.
According to Deadline, MoviePass members may have accounted for as much as 40 percent ($668,000) of the "Gotti" box office haul this past weekend.
MoviePass has not yet responded to TooFab's request for comment.
When contacted by TooFab, a Rotten Tomatoes spokeswoman said the company did not suspect any manipulation of the audience score. "We have looked into this and have found that all of the reviews were left by real users," the spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, critics and film journalists have noticed how "Gotti" is being marketed in response to the bad reviews, and they're speaking up.
I have to give you credit. You've gotten a lot of RTs and new followers from this inane tweet. But I don't have to give you too much credit. You're still short of 850 followers. For a movie that already opened.