Fandango Games Movie Reviews So It's Technically Impossible For A Film To Suck

from the Battlefield-Earth-was-a-modern-masterpiece dept

Review manipulation in the crowdsourced data era is of course nothing new. Amazon just filed a new lawsuit against more than 1,000 people who were selling reviews for as little as $5 a pop. Elsewhere, companies with a vested interest in making their streaming video catalog as attractive as possible will magically skew aggregated review data higher. Head over to any number of services like Walmart’s Vudu and you’ll notice that it’s almost impossible for a crap film to drop below three stars, not matter how foul of an unholy abomination it is.

Comcast-owned Fandango appears to be no exception. As a company that sells movie tickets, Fandango obviously has a vested interest in not portraying the products it sells as absolute crap. Indeed, an analysis of Fandango data conducted by Five-Thirty-Eight (prompted by somebody noticing the new Fantastic Four movie was rated far higher than such a dumpster fire deserved) found that the company’s website ensured it was impossible for most movies to ever see less than a three-star rating:

“When I pulled the data for 510 films on that had tickets on sale this year, something looked off right away: Of the 437 films with at least one review, 98 percent had a 3-star rating or higher and 75 percent had a 4-star rating or higher. It seemed nearly impossible for a movie to fail by Fandango?s standards. When I focused on movies that had 308 or more user reviews, none of the 209 films had below a 3-star rating. Seventy-eight percent had a rating of 4 stars or higher.”

They dumped all the data to GitHub for perusal, and offered up a handy graphic highlighting the disparity between Fandango and other movie reviewing websites:

Looking further at the html source showed that the Fandango website took reviews that were recorded on server as half-a-star lower and boosted the rating on the customer-facing end. When pressed, Fandango blamed the skewed rankings on a bug that happens to have gone overlooked for years:

“However, after further back and forth, the company described the rounding disparity ? by which, for example, 4.1 is rounded to 4.5 ? as a bug in the system rather than a general practice. ?There appears to be a software glitch on our site with the rounding logic of our five star rating system, as it rounds up to the next highest half star instead of the nearest half star,? the company said in an emailed statement. Fandango told us that it plans to fix the rounding algorithm on its website ?as soon as possible.”

That hasn’t happened yet, though surely a company owned by Comcast will get around to it soon? Of course, tastes are subjective, so there’s never going to be a perfect review system; I often find 95% or higher movies on Rotten Tomatoes that I think are abysmal, lowest-common-denominator aardvark vomit. Still, if you actually want to have users return to your website, it seems like it might be a good idea to have something vaguely resembling trust and integrity at the heart of your review analysis and aggregation system. Granted, if Fandango inherits any of its parent company DNA, caring much about that sort of thing likely isn’t high up on the action item list.

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Companies: comcast, fandango

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Comments on “Fandango Games Movie Reviews So It's Technically Impossible For A Film To Suck”

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JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It certainly isn’t a bug – I don’t know any computer language that rounds up to the nearest half… it has to be programmed to do so. There’s not even that many languages that round up, PERIOD, much less to the nearest half. They almost all invariably truncate integer operations, including conversion from floating point. If you want to round UP to the nearest integer, you use ceil() or the equivalent for a language.

Mr. Oizo says:

Re: Re: Re:

Never programmed a thing I take it ? I do.

Rounding to the nearest ‘half’ is not easy and requires almost certainly that they have to write their own routine. A straightforward attempt is to double the number, then round it and then divide it by 2 again. E.g: 3.4 * 2 = 6.8 -> round it -> gives 7 then divide it -> 3.5 However. I can perfectly see how other people might do it differently and start out by trying to decide whether they should go up or down and then call different routines. That might have lead to a bug.

Secondly: you say: not that many languages round up. They actually do. Depending on the number. round(3.6)=4, round(3.4)=3. In most languages you have functions such as floor, ceil and round. Each with their own behavior.

Anonymous Coward says:

Conflict-of-interest and sleight-of-hand are nothing new in Hollywood. Maybe that’s why –to no one’s surprise– the major film studios that founded, owned, and ran the Academy Awards tended to give themselves the lions’ share of awards.

I’d be curious about Fandango’s rankings of movies made by Universal Pictures, which, like Fandango, is owned by Comcast.

PaulT (profile) says:

“As a company that sells movie tickets, Fandango obviously has a vested interest in not portraying the products it sells as absolute crap.”

Well…. Yes and no. In terms of an immediate sale, if someone’s looking at movies to buy at a particular time but don’t know what to watch, they might change their mind about going to a movie if everything’s badly rated at the time they wish to go.

But, long term? If people buy tickets for a lot of 3-4 star rated movies and they turn out to be utter crap, they may just decide to stop going to the movies and do something enjoyable with their time and money. At the very least, they’ll stop taking chances on movies they know so little about that their decision is swayed by a rating, thus perpetrating the sequel/remake/franchise obsession the industry currently has.

Anonymous Coward says:

Nearly all movies are crap

There is now an entire genre built around making movies from comic books — COMIC BOOKS. You know, some of the most worthless infantile garbage produced by our culture, absolutely disgusting aardvark vomit (to borrow your phrase). And yet now some of these projects are major Hollywood franchises.

Why? Because they appeal to the inferior people equipped with inferior minds — and there are plenty of those. Thus Hollywood makes a fortune off the morons among us. And they don’t have to stress themselves out thinking about characters or plot or anything else: just trot out a bunch of ridiculous action, put the CGI team to work, and ta-da: another two hours of opiate for the masses.

There are porn films with better production values, character development, and storytelling than this drivel.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Nearly all movies are crap

“Nearly all movies are crap”

As has been the case since the invention of the medium. As is the case of most media, from novels to paintings to music. Your point?

“There is now an entire genre built around making movies from comic books — COMIC BOOKS”

Yes, and despite your spittle-flecked attack on them, they represent relatively few of the movies actually being produced. Tentpole features, sure, many (but certainly not all) of them successful.

But, there’s a huge number of other movies. According to Box Office Mojo, 552 movies have been released theatrically in the US this year so far. That obviously doesn’t count the many that have gone to DVD/VOD/streaming (not a mark of quality nowadays – as you mention, big dumb movies may be edging out smaller intelligent movies). It also doesn’t count the wealth of quality non-Hollywood cinema.

Yet, there seems to be less than 30 of those films based on comic books. Why are you so upset over a small minority of movies in a genre that’s existed for decades, and which has merely supplanted other mindless genres for the box office dollar? Are you honestly going to say that blockbusters of previous eras were better just because they weren’t based on comic books?

Why waste your time whining that movies that are popular don’t match your tastes? Why not champion the great many movies that have never been anywhere near a comic book, yet don’t have the marketing budget of those you despise? Ranting on a forum that you don’t like a particular genre won’t get films you like made. Helping to get those movies you prefer to be financially successful will.

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