It seemed nearly impossible for a movie to fail by Fandango's standards.
October 15, 2015 9:29 AM Subscribe
Be Suspicious Of Online Movie Ratings, Especially Fandango's — FiveThirtyEight.com notices a consistent pattern in Fandango movie ratings, and warns against the perils of relying on ratings provided by companies trying to sell you the product being rated.
Several sites have built popular rating systems: Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and IMDb each have their own way of aggregating film reviews. And while the sites have different criteria for picking and combining reviews, they have all built systems with similar values: They use the full continuum of their ratings scale, try to maintain consistency, and attempt to limit deliberate interference in their ratings.
These rating systems aren’t perfect, but they’re sound enough to be useful.
All that cannot be said of Fandango, a NBCUniversal subsidiary that uses a five-star rating system in which almost no movie gets fewer than three stars, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis. What’s more, as I’m writing this, scores on Fandango.com are skewed even higher because of the weird way Fandango aggregates its users’ reviews. And while other sites that gather user reviews are often tangentially connected to the media industry, Fandango has an immediate interest in your desire to see a movie: The company sells tickets directly to consumers.
Fandango.com’s rounding methodology, even if it was just an innocent bug, is a good example of why you should be skeptical of online movie ratings, especially from companies selling you tickets. If this kind of bug can survive unnoticed on the website of a major American ticket seller for who knows how long, there’s no reason a similar bug — or another issue we’re missing — couldn’t be on any other site we’re using to figure out if something is good or not.
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