Fresher Movies Make More Money at the Box Office: A Tomatometer Deep Dive

We crunched the numbers and found that the Fresher a movie is, the better its box office chances are on average... though there are always exceptions to the rule.

by | December 3, 2019 | Comments

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

(Photo by ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Lucasfilm Ltd./Courtesy Everett Collection)

What do the movies with the highest domestic box office totals for each year since 2010 have in common? None of them have Rotten Tomatometer scores – and they all made over $300 million. In fact, when averaged together, these 10 Fresh blockbusters – Toy Story 3, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World, Finding Dory, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, Black Panther, and Avengers: Endgame – have a super-Fresh Tomatometer average of 90.3%.

Currently, the highest domestic (and worldwide) grossing film of 2019 is the 94% Tomatometer-rated Avengers: Endgame,  which has earned a mind-snapping total of $858 million domestically and over $2 billion worldwide. By crossing the $2 billion milestone, Avengers: Endgame has joined Titanic, Avatar, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, and Avengers: Infinity War in the exclusive “$2 Billion Club.” What do these movies have in common? Yep, you guessed it again: They’re all Fresh.

The success of these Fresh films got us thinking: Are these blockbuster movies Fresh anomalies, or do Fresh movies make more money at the box office generally? Is there a relationship between Tomatometer score and box office performance? (And we stress: a “relationship,” and not necessarily a causal one; so many factors contribute to box office performance.) To aid us in our data deep dive, we pulled the Tomatometer and domestic box office data for the 1,404 movies that received wide theatrical domestic releases (600-plus screens) since 2010. Here’s what we found…

*The box office results have been adjusted for inflation. All calculations accurate as of November 28, 2019.


© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, ©Marvel Studios

(Photo by © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, © Marel Studios)

  • Fresh Movies since 2010: Inflated Domestic Average of $104 million
  • Rotten Movies since 2010: Inflated Domestic Average of $54 million

When it comes to Tomatometer and domestic box office results, Fresh movies, on average, make more money than Rotten movies. It may sound obvious – good films draw more people to the theater! – and you are probably thinking, “I could’ve told you that,” but the difference is quite startling. The $101 million average for the 636 Fresh movies in the sample is nearly double the $54 million average of the 799 Rotten films. Even if you removed Disney brands Marvel and Pixar, which produce some of the most critically beloved blockbusters, such as Black Panther, Toy Story 4, and Avengers: Endgame, the average for Fresh films since 2010 is still a respectable $91 million.


It’s also worth noting that the more Fresh a movie is, the better it is likely to do at the box office, and the more Rotten it is, the worse it is likely to perform. Movies with a 0-20% Tomatometer score had an average domestic box office of $40 million; movies with 80-100% Tomatometer scores averaged $113 million.

However, not every Fresh movie makes money: 58 of the 187 (or 42%) wide-release movies that made under $10 million at the box office since 2010 are Fresh. A Fresh rating doesn’t guarantee massive success, and Fresh movies like Green Room and The Raid 2 don’t automatically collect $100 million dollars domestically.


Sanja Bucko/Warner Bros.

(Photo by © Warner Bros. Pictures)

Some 323 movies have made over $100 million at the domestic box office since 2010. Of those, 219 (68%) have Fresh Tomatometer scores, which means the odds of a movie making more than $100 million increase when it receives a Fresh Tomatometer score. Only 5% of movies with a 0-10% Tomatometer score (or 3 of the 62 movies) – namely Grown Ups 2, The Last Airbender, and Little Fockers – made over $100 million. On the other hand, 41% of the movies with a score above 90% (or 68 of the 164 movies) – such as Spy, Girl’s Trip, and Crazy Rich Asians – cleared the $100 million milestone. That 41% may not seem like a lot, but it’s a big jump over the movies in the 70-80% range, where 33% of the movies broke $100 million.

Below is a breakdown of Tomatometer ranges and the average amount of money the movies in them make.

  • 0-10% Movies: $33 million
  • 10-20% Movies: $43 million
  • 20-30% Movies: $50 million
  • 30-40% Movies: $49 million
  • 40-50% Movies: $61 million
  • 50-60% Movies: $76 million
  • 60-70% Movies: $78 million
  • 70-80% Movies: $110 million
  • 80-90% Movies: $95 million
  • 90-100% Movies: $132 million


(Photo by © Universal)

Only 25 movies have made over $400 million domestically since 2010; 23 of those movies are Fresh, and 13 have scores above 90%. The only Rotten films are Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and The Lion King. Rotten movies can make killer money; it’s just rare, and they seem to need the word “king” somewhere in their name. (Also, in 2009, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen made over $400 million domestic. Trend?) 

The Fresh Jurassic World was a Mosasaurus-sized blockbuster, whereas its Rotten sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom made $260 million less ($678 million down to $418 million) – though that dropoff is not unusual for a sequel to a mega hit. The lowest-rated Avengers film, Avengers: Age of Ultron (75% on the Tomatometer) is the only Avengers film that didn’t clear the $500 million mark. The same can be said for the $214 million-grossing Solo: A Star Wars Story. At 70%, it has the lowest Tomatometer score of any of the latest Star Wars films — and they all made over $500 million.

The Hunger Games (84% on the Tomatometer) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (89%) cleared $400 million, whereas The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Part 2 had lower Tomatometer scores (69%, 70%) and couldn’t pass the $400 million mark.

There are definitely other factors at play, such as franchise fatigue, time of release, competition, and more, but it’s interesting to note that the less critically appreciated films in a franchise tend to underperform those that score better on the Tomatometer.


(Photo by © Warner Bros. Pictures)

Movies don’t need Fresh scores to make a lot of money. Just ask any Adam Sandler comedy – You Don’t Mess With the Zohan should have at least a 67% Tomatometer score according to some Rotten Tomatoes staffers – or inquire with the Twilight and Transformers franchises. Twelve Rotten movies have cleared $300 million domestically since 2010 and 10 have made over $1 billion worldwide since 2010. In 2018 alone, Venom, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Meg, The Nun, Rampage, The Equalizer 2, Fifty Shades Freed, and The Grinch pulled in at least $100 million domestically.

So, while there seems to be a correlation between Freshness and box office domination, it’s an imperfect one – and working out causation is an entirely different matter. Our data dive is not about finding out whether Tomatometer scores drive or dampen box office, merely whether there is any trend between the two sets of data. For now, we can simply say that better-reviewed movies tend to do better at the box office, with a few exceptions. And if Adam Sandler suddenly kicked off a Zack Snyder-directed Transformers franchise – and, please do – then this data could look very different in 10 years.

Assuming those films are Rotten, of course.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Thumbnail image courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Marvel Studios

Tag Cloud

talk show vampires 45 films directors Lionsgate Masterpiece breaking bad award winner TCM television The Walking Dead japanese batman documentary Columbia Pictures true crime TCA 72 Emmy Awards Apple TV Plus Creative Arts Emmys series Funimation TCA Awards Rock Rocky Superheroe blaxploitation serial killer children's TV festival Tarantino asian-american Comics on TV news crime thriller Interview scary movies black docudrama GLAAD Emmys boxoffice Reality Turner Classic Movies E3 2019 Polls and Games Martial Arts TV renewals Biopics Super Bowl TruTV Fantasy crossover comic books reboot fast and furious venice Travel Channel American Society of Cinematographers Britbox Musicals TV Land DirecTV Set visit concert El Rey hispanic Musical Apple TV+ halloween laika Black History Month Animation franchise quibi spanish PaleyFest slashers MSNBC supernatural IFC worst Discovery Channel Grammys 71st Emmy Awards Infographic Hulu emmy awards singing competition Sci-Fi Mystery sports Podcast canceled Pop CMT New York Comic Con Nickelodeon Comic Book latino dc DGA DC streaming service Peacock Red Carpet Starz comedies Watching Series Black Mirror SundanceTV Character Guide war Elton John Extras Hallmark Marvel Television SDCC cartoon james bond Kids & Family richard e. Grant sag awards doctor who PBS Disney+ Disney Plus dceu Film police drama Premiere Dates FXX Rom-Com Amazon Studios FOX die hard halloween tv comiccon See It Skip It OWN PlayStation crime drama werewolf Shudder Arrowverse Shondaland Song of Ice and Fire child's play ghosts mockumentary San Diego Comic-Con Nominations HBO Go crime AMC zombies spy thriller MTV Sneak Peek video on demand psycho 2015 dark Cartoon Network mutant Hear Us Out 2017 casting TCA 2017 Disney Channel Country Pirates italian DC Universe Video Games renewed TV shows streaming toronto Valentine's Day parents YouTube Cosplay Pop TV The Purge cooking theme song Esquire Syfy BBC Walt Disney Pictures independent Star Wars christmas movies Election teaser comic TV Mindy Kaling Mudbound anime satire Certified Fresh HBO Max Spring TV USA travel Film Festival cancelled TV shows australia Amazon Prime Video 2018 thriller indiana jones golden globes Schedule nfl GoT mission: impossible CBS All Access VOD social media YouTube Red Hallmark Christmas movies name the review Netflix Marvel sequel Pride Month Acorn TV Turner Comedy Central Adult Swim dragons Dark Horse Comics First Reviews cats Horror VH1 Sundance Fall TV universal monsters 24 frames adaptation technology Opinion RT History Family RT21 sitcom Amazon Prime Apple 2016 joker movies Tubi sequels documentaries LGBTQ reviews canceled TV shows dogs Paramount Network Pixar jamie lee curtis best chucky revenge blockbuster dramedy BBC America Sundance TV worst movies E! CNN a nightmare on elm street anthology superhero Binge Guide french Crackle unscripted robots cars Avengers ABC Winners discovery binge FX Trivia TBS kids Spectrum Originals cancelled TV series Heroines Year in Review FX on Hulu Academy Awards zero dark thirty Spike Television Academy cancelled television Disney game of thrones movie spider-man Warner Bros. stop motion witnail green book APB archives Captain marvel YouTube Premium space WarnerMedia Comedy DC Comics Sony Pictures aliens festivals Winter TV Christmas 2020 TIFF Emmy Nominations TLC Western First Look Music Calendar WGN nature Fox Searchlight Holiday game show facebook NYCC A&E historical drama tv talk Mary Poppins Returns Thanksgiving 20th Century Fox free movies President Chernobyl comics Baby Yoda justice league Superheroes natural history Mary Tyler Moore Sundance Now Action Toys Lifetime biography football cults Disney streaming service Awards Tour Summer critics Mary poppins cinemax Drama Paramount Pet Sematary 4/20 Nat Geo Tumblr Quiz IFC Films cops Vudu ratings Epix BET Bravo The Arrangement elevated horror hist Reality Competition LGBT Star Trek Writers Guild of America ITV Teen X-Men CBS hollywood disaster Best and Worst A24 stoner Marathons The CW Trophy Talk Holidays YA GIFs video Anna Paquin nbcuniversal medical drama OneApp Women's History Month romance animated Cannes spanish language Brie Larson Lifetime Christmas movies USA Network Lucasfilm scorecard stand-up comedy diversity screen actors guild MCU Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Disney Plus period drama deadpool ABC Family Stephen King TCA Winter 2020 The Academy Endgame ESPN zombie Ellie Kemper ID cancelled Trailer romantic comedy HBO Box Office political drama Countdown twilight based on movie versus Photos harry potter Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt The Witch spinoff Logo Crunchyroll remakes miniseries Netflix Christmas movies VICE Freeform rt archives indie Tomatazos Ghostbusters Showtime psychological thriller National Geographic Television Critics Association Fox News rotten movies we love Awards obituary SXSW 007 Rocketman screenings History toy story 21st Century Fox BBC One CW Seed Amazon criterion composers spain TNT Oscars Marvel Studios rotten foreign politics book Universal south america what to watch Classic Film science fiction Food Network finale strong female leads Ovation BAFTA adventure all-time NBC classics transformers BET Awards