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Rotten Tomatoes, a Division of Warner Bros. — Can It Be Unbiased?

Skeptics wonder if the movie-review site can remain impartial now that it’s owned by a major studio; here’s why they’re wrong


So this morning Warner Bros. confirmed that it was buying the social-media site Flixster, which also happens to be the parent company of Rotten Tomatoes, the most widely known aggregator of movie reviews on the web.

And despite WB's assurances that both sites would remain independently run, it didn't take long for alarm bells to sound in some quarters over the idea of a major studio owning a site where people go to see what the critics think about movies.

Also read: Warner Bros. to Acquire Flixster, Rotten Tomatoes

Tweeted filmmaker Jason Pollock, "Can Rotten Tomatoes be seen as unbiased now that it's owned by a movie studio?"

Something Borrowed on Rotten TomatoesWell, yes, it can.

Rotten Tomatoes doesn't employ critics, it aggregates them. Those critics may have their own biases, and in some instances maybe even their own conflicts of interest.

But the purchase has no effect on who they work for, because they don't work for Rotten Tomatoes. And the critics won't gain a damn thing by being nicer to WB movies tomorrow than they were yesterday.

(Consider the 8 percent Tomatometer rating on WB's upcoming rom-com "Something Borrowed," above — there's not a lot that home-court advantage could have done with that.)

Granted, Rotten Tomatoes could skew things slightly — if, for instance, the people at the company who are in charge of deciding if a borderline review goes into the "fresh" or "rotten" category start being more generous with WB movies.

But most reviews pretty clearly go one way or the other, so I can't imagine that they'd have much leeway there, either.

And the moment any perceived bias enters the picture, I have no doubt that the Twitterverse will sound off loud and clear.

For now, let's call this much ado about nothing.

ADDENDUM: As David Poland points out in the comments below, this is not the first time Rotten Tomatoes has been owned by a studio. From late 2005 until its sale to Flixster in January 2010, the site was owned by Fox Interactive Media, a division of 20th Century Fox's owner, News Corp.

It made it through those years without drawing many complaints that it was biased in favor of Fox product.