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‘Ophelia’ PR Firm Paid for Positive Reviews to Juice Rotten Tomatoes Score

In a new, withering exposé about how easily Rotten Tomatoes, the popular review aggregator website, can be manipulated, it is revealed that a movie publicity firm called Bunker 15 paid for positive reviews for the 2018 Daisy Ridley movie “Ophelia.”

The firm paid critics $50 or more for each review, according to the New York Magazine/Vulture piece, which cited internal company emails and critics.

The pay-for-positive-reviews bit was part of a larger ploy – if the film garnered enough positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, it would look more appealing to a potential distributor. They would also persuade writers to encourage Rotten Tomatoes that mixed reviews receive a “positive” distinction on the site. They also somehow made it so that negative reviews of the movie weren’t counted.

As for the fate of “Ophelia,” a month after it was certified “fresh” IFC Films announced it had acquired the film for distribution in the United States.

Bunker 15’s founder Daniel Harlow denied the company acted as part of a conspiracy.

“We have thousands of writers in our distribution list,” Harlow told New York Magazine/Vulture. “A small handful have set up a specific system where filmmakers can sponsor or pay to have them review a film.”

According to the report, Bunker 15 purposefully targeted lower-profile critics who are likely underpaid and thus more susceptible to the scheme.

As filmmaker Paul Schrader, who started his career as a critic before becoming a filmmaker and whose latest film “Master Gardner,” has a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes (that’s “fresh!”), puts it later in the article: “The studios didn’t invent Rotten Tomatoes, and most of them don’t like it. But the system is broken. Audiences are dumber. Normal people don’t go through reviews like they used to. Rotten Tomatoes is something the studios can game. So they do.”

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