Rotten Tomatoes is an American review-aggregation website for film and television. The company was launched in August 1998 by three undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley: Senh Duong, Patrick Y. Lee, and Stephen Wang. Although the name "Rotten Tomatoes" connects to the practice of audiences throwing rotten tomatoes when disapproving of a poor stage performance, the original inspiration comes from a scene featuring tomatoes in the Canadian film Léolo (1992).
Since January 2010, Rotten Tomatoes has been owned by Flixster, which was in turn acquired by Warner Bros. in 2011. In February 2016, Rotten Tomatoes and its parent site Flixster were sold to Comcast's Fandango. Warner Bros. retained a minority stake in the merged entities, including Fandango.
Rotten Tomatoes was launched on August 12, 1998, as a spare-time project by Senh Duong. His objective in creating Rotten Tomatoes was "to create a site where people can get access to reviews from a variety of critics in the U.S". As a fan of Jackie Chan, Duong was inspired to create the website after collecting all the reviews of Chan's Hong Kong action movies as they were being released in the United States. The catalyst for the creation of the website was Rush Hour (1998), Chan's first major Hollywood crossover, which was originally planned to release in August 1998. Duong coded the website in two weeks and the site went live the same month, but the release of Rush Hour was delayed until September 1998. Besides Jackie Chan films, he began including other films on Rotten Tomatoes, extending it beyond Chan's fandom. The first non-Chan Hollywood movie whose reviews were featured on Rotten Tomatoes was Your Friends & Neighbors (1998). The website was an immediate success, receiving mentions by Netscape, Yahoo!, and USA Today within the first week of its launch; it attracted "600–1,000 daily unique visitors" as a result.
Duong teamed up with University of California, Berkeley classmates Patrick Y. Lee and Stephen Wang, his former partners at the Berkeley, California-based web design firm Design Reactor, to pursue Rotten Tomatoes on a full-time basis. They officially launched it on April 1, 2000.
In June 2004, IGN Entertainment acquired Rotten Tomatoes for an undisclosed sum. In September 2005, IGN was bought by News Corp's Fox Interactive Media. In January 2010, IGN sold the website to Flixster. The combined reach of both companies is 30 million unique visitors a month across all different platforms, according to the companies. In 2011, Warner Bros. acquired Rotten Tomatoes.
In early 2009, Current Television launched The Rotten Tomatoes Show, a televised version of the web review site. It was hosted by Brett Erlich and Ellen Fox and written by Mark Ganek. The show aired Thursdays at 10:30 EST until September 16, 2010. It returned as a much shorter segment of InfoMania, a satirical news show that ended in 2011.
By late 2009, the website was designed to enable Rotten Tomatoes users to create and join groups to discuss various aspects of film. One group, "The Golden Oyster Awards", accepted votes of members for various awards, spoofing the better-known Academy Awards or Golden Globes. When Flixster bought the company, they disbanded the groups.
As of February 2011, new community features have been added and others removed. For example, users can no longer sort films by Fresh Ratings from Rotten Ratings, and vice versa.
On September 17, 2013, a section devoted to scripted television series, called TV Zone, was created as a subsection of the website.
In February 2016, Rotten Tomatoes and its parent site Flixster were sold to Comcast's Fandango. Warner Bros retained a minority stake in the merged entities, including Fandango.
In December 2016, Fandango and all its various websites moved to Fox Interactive Media's former headquarters in Beverly Hills, California.
In July 2017, the website's editor-in-chief since 2007, Matt Atchity, left to join The Young Turks YouTube channel. On November 1, 2017, the site launched a new web series on Facebook, See It/Skip It, hosted by Jacqueline Coley and Segun Oduolowu.
In March 2018, the site announced its new design, icons and logo for the first time in 19 years at South by Southwest.
In February 2021, the Rotten Tomatoes staff made an entry on their Product Blog, announcing several design changes to the site: Each film's 'Score Box' at the top of the page would now also include its release year, genre, and runtimes, with an MPAA rating to be soon added; the number of ratings would be shown in groupings – from 50+ up to 250,000+ ratings, for easier visualization. Links to critics and viewers are included underneath the ratings. By clicking on either the Tomatometer Score or the Audience Score, the users can access "Score Details" information, such as the number of Fresh and Rotten reviews, average rating, and Top Critics’ score. The team also added a new "What to Know" section for each film entry page, which could combine the "Critics Consensus" blurb with a new "Audience Says" blurb, so users can see an at-a-glance summary of the sentiments of both certified critics and verified audience members.