Accepting the inaugural Robert Osborne Award at TCM’s annual classic film festival in Hollywood, director Martin Scorsese spoke out against Rotten Tomatoes and CinemaScore for leading movies to be “instantly judged and dismissed.”
In his lengthy acceptance speech, Scorsese criticized the “devaluation of cinema” led by sites like YouTube and Rotten Tomatoes.
“It can all be summed up in the word that’s being used now: content,” the 75-year-old director said. “All movie images are lumped together. You’ve got a picture, you’ve got a TV episode, a new trailer, you’ve got a how-to video on a coffee-maker, you’ve got a Super Bowl commercial, you’ve got ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, it’s all the same.”
“If there’s no sense of value tied to a given movie, of course, it can be sampled in bits and pieces and just forgotten,” he continued, calling out Rotten Tomatoes and CinemaScore. “The horrible idea they reinforce [is] that every picture, every image is there to be instantly judged and dismissed without giving audiences time to see it. Time to see it, maybe ruminate and maybe make a decision for themselves. So the great 20th-century art form, the American art form, is reduced to content.”
Now, CinemaScore is firing back.
“It confuses me as to why Martin Scorsese wants to censor his fans from voicing their opinions,” CinemaScore executive Harold Mintz tells IndieWire. “I can understand his concerns with Rotten Tomatoes because their opinions get released before the movie gets released which could cause the problem he’s most concerned about.”
The company does not provide reviews of films or assigns them ratings but instead polls audiences exiting films on opening night, asking them to assign the film a grade from A+ to F. The strategy taps into moviegoers who are enthusiastic enough about the films to see them in theatres on opening night. This process can also lead to films earning lower scores when they don’t meet fan expectations.
“CinemaScore’s inception was to poll opening night moviegoers to let others who don’t attend opening night know if the film is worth their hard earned money. To loop CinemaScore with a critic based service (Rotten Tomatoes) shows that Mr. Scorsese has no understanding of what CinemaScore represents,” Mintz continues. “CinemaScore polls the audience that MOST want to see it. The data is deadly accurate. It correlates to box-office as well. To bury those results as Mr. Scorsese wishes to suggest only says that he doesn’t want his fans to let others know whether or not his latest film meets expectations.”
While speaking at the TCM festival, Scorsese took the time to show his appreciation for the audience of classic film buffs: “You know the difference between a YouTube video and the great American art form,” he concluded. “You react against the devaluation of cinema and movies by showing up.”
And no one knows movies quite like Scorsese, at least according to his frequent star, Leonardo DiCaprio, who was on hand to present the Robert Osborne Award.
“No one is more knowledgeable, more committed, or draws more inspiration from the film art form that I know of than Martin Scorsese,” DiCaprio told the crowd. “He gave me an immense appreciation for the greatness of cinema’s past. And not only memorable performances but also an appreciation for directorial achievements throughout the history of movie-making. As a young actor standing beside him during the creative process of making a movie, I discovered that just like a painting, a sculpture, music or theatre, film was just as essential, relevant, as a matter of fact, the most integral art form of our time. In other words, I felt I could truly own the term artist by working alongside Martin Scorsese. There is almost no aspect of his life, creative or personal, where he doesn’t reference the history of movies.”
Scroses’s next film is “The Irishman” with Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel and an “SCTV” comedy special, both which will be released on Netflix.