Rotten Tomatoes Renews Critics Grant Program in Ongoing Diversity Push

Review site will continue program to cover festival travel expenses for critics from underrepresented demographics

Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes announced on Wednesday that it will renew its grant program to help critics from underrepresented groups attend film festivals as part of an ongoing push to increase diversity among the reviews features on its site.

Last year, just prior to the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, Rotten Tomatoes established a $100,000 fund to help female and minority critics cover travel expenses for attending the prestigious event. That grant also helped underrepresented critics attend this year’s Sundance and SXSW festivals, and to date over 160 critics have been assisted through the program.

In addition, Rotten Tomatoes also made changes to the critics criteria for their ratings system with a greater focus on individual qualifications. This was done to allow critics who write on a freelance basis or distribute their reviews through new media outlets like YouTube to be included on the site.

Rotten Tomatoes says that of the over 600 new critics that have been added to their system over the past 12 months, 55% of the new critics are women, 60% are freelancers and 10% publish reviews through new media.

In a survey of those new critics, RT says that 73% have seen an increase in their site traffic since being added to the Tomatometer, but 43% said they are still having difficulty securing admission to press screenings while 61% say that costs for attending film festivals are still an ongoing concern.

“We are encouraged by the progress we’re making towards creating a Tomatometer-approved critics pool that reflects the global entertainment audience and we will continue to build on our momentum,” Jenny Jediny, Rotten Tomatoes’ Senior Manager of Critic Relations said in a statement.

“We invite our industry colleagues to join us in our effort to create more opportunities for journalists, especially those from underrepresented groups. Our new critics have shared with us the obstacles they still face, such as gaining access to press screenings and film festivals and securing writing assignments.”

Rotten Tomatoes has also revamped other major elements of their site over the past year, namely a new “Verified Audience Score” system that filters through user ratings on films to only include ones from those who have bought a ticket for the film through Fandango. Major theater chains AMC Theatres, Regal and Cinemark Theatres plan to participate as ticket purchase authenticators in the future.

“Rotten Tomatoes is connecting audiences with authentic, trusted information from professional critics and fellow fans, to help them discover entertainment and decide what to watch in theaters and at home,” Fandango President Paul Yanover said.

“Significant advancements are happening across Rotten Tomatoes, from the team’s work to increase critic diversity in the Tomatometer to expanding consumer confidence with the new Verified Audience Score. We are especially proud to commit to another $100,000 grant in 2020 to support film festivals and industry initiatives that further inclusion in entertainment criticism.”