Rotten Tomatoes can certainly have a huge impact on a movie’s box office for certain kinds of films. A great RT score is critical for independent films that rely on reviews to provide much of their marketing (e.g., Eighth Grade). A great RT score can also boost the box-office fortunes of a genre movie like A Quiet Place or Get Out or even Crazy Rich Asians. For a movie geared toward adults that is relying on awards buzz to generate enthusiasm — like Matthew McConaughey’s White Boy Rick or Johnny Depp’s Black Mass — a very good RT score is critical to its success. (In both cases, middling RT scores killed those films.)
However, poor RT scores clearly don’t always kill a movie at the box office, where critic-proof movies can still do incredibly well in the Rotten Tomatoes era. In fact, eight of this year’s last 12 number one films at the box office received rotten scores, including The Nun, which has earned over $108 million at the box office despite a 27 percent RT score, The Predator (34 percent) and this week’s number one film, Night School. The Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish film earned $28 million despite a 30 percent RT score (and that 30 percent is very charitable). That gives Night School the highest-grossing opening weekend for a comedy in all of 2018.
Clearly, there are certain kinds of films where the RT score is meaningless, and in the case of Night School, it seems that one category where films do well in spite of bad reviews are those where the critics and the audiences largely disagree. Here, Night Score received an A- Cinemascore, which is the same Cinemascore as the considerably better Kevin Hart film Central Intelligence, although it is well short of the A+ of the last Malcolm D. Lee film Girls Trip, also starring Tiffany Haddish. Horror films (The Nun, The Predator, The Meg), kid films (Hotel Transylvania 3) and huge franchise films (Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom) seem to be the other exceptions.