Flixster Purchases Rotten Tomatoes

     January 4, 2010

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In the ongoing struggle between critics and social networking, Flixster has purchased Rotten Tomatoes, which may result in peace or the utter destruction of professional critics.  While most people know that RT is an aggregator of critical reviews, some of our readers may not be aware of Flixster.  Flixter is social networking where users can share their ratings and reviews of movies and it really exploded when it became a Facebook application.  Then it became one of the first apps for the iPhone and thus it is now fairly ubiquitous amongst the youngsters with their damn music and hula hoops.

Now, Mashable is reporting that Flixster has acquired Rotten Tomatoes from IGN (which is owned by Newscorp).  Newscorp will keep a minority stake in RT, and according to the press release (which you can read after the jump), the two entities will remain separate.  Of course, I doubt that will last long since you basically have professional critics on one side and the unwashed masses on the other side and presumably Flixster will see a way to combine the two to provide recommendations you never knew you wanted.

Hit the jump to read the press release along with my curmudgeonly thoughts.

flixster_screenshot_01.jpgOnline journalists may be laughing at the demise of print, but all movie critics need to start reading the warning on the wall which is that they might be becoming irrelevant.  I believe the success of RT partially came from the authority of print critics who had grown their respectability over decades of hard work.  This invites the readership of an older audience that recognizes and respects the work of established print film critics.  I am glad, however, that RT also includes the work of online film critics.

[Full disclaimer: I applied to have my reviews listed on RT back in August, but my application remains in limbo]

Flixster appeals to a younger crowd.  While that’s not to say that people over 45 don’t use it, I would predict that the majority of Flixster users range from 16-39.  However, if the younger demographic dominates the critical recommendations, then can older movies or art house films still get recommendations or does it just come down to a comparison like “See G.I. Joe instead of Transformers 2″?  Maybe I’m projecting my own fear of irrelevancy, but I hope that this kind of merger brings attention to movies outside the mainstream instead of bringing greater dominance to already well-publicized movies.  I try to take solace in the Netflix recommendation engine as well as the diversity of the IMDb Top 250 list.

Now before I receive your hate, let me just say that the opinions of individuals is fine.  But my fear is that recommendations will come from the majority rule rather than the smaller films of Chris Anderson’s “Long Tail.”  Hopefully, my pessimism is unfounded.

Here’s the full press release:

SAN FRANCISCO – Flixster Inc., producer of the world’s largest online movie community at www.Flixster.com, today announced that it has acquired Rotten Tomatoes from IGN Entertainment. IGN, a division of News Corporation, will receive a minority equity stake in Flixster as part of the acquisition. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The combination of Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes reaches a huge global movie audience of an estimated 30 million monthly visitors worldwide across multiple platforms: on the Internet, through web-based social networks, and via mobile apps for the iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices.

Both Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes will continue to be available to movie fans as individual properties. Together, Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes give movie audiences an unprecedented total picture of movie trends and opinions, combining half a million reviews from leading critics with 2.3 billion user ratings and reviews.

“To use movie terminology, we think this is a blockbuster double-bill,” said Joe Greenstein, co-founder and CEO of Flixster. “It’s a huge step forward in our goal of connecting users to their own personalized world of movies on any platform they choose. We can’t think of a better pairing for movie fans and our technology partners.”

Flixster’s president and COO Steve Polsky added, “Rotten Tomatoes has built a fantastically well-known brand that moviegoers trust when making their decisions. Combined with Flixster’s social networking and word-of-mouth, we’re creating the leading movie destination on the Internet.”

“Joining Rotten Tomatoes with Flixster creates a company that can dominate the online movie category,” said Roy Bahat, president of IGN Entertainment, who will join Flixster’s board of directors as an observer. “This also enables IGN to focus on serving the male 18-to-34 audience – especially videogamers – and the advertisers looking to reach them.”

Flixster already operates the leading embedded movie applications on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, iGoogle, and for the iPhone, Android devices, Blackberry and Palm Pre. Together, Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes will be the most comprehensive, one-stop movie-information provider for both end users and technology partners, including: a database of more than 250,000 movies; 2.3 billion user reviews; 500,000 critic reviews; more than 20,000 trailers and videos; the well-known TomatometerTM and Flixster Scores; unique movie news and editorial content; category-leading social-networking features; localized movie showtime information; theater maps; and online ticketing.

Prior to the acquisition, Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes partnered in several areas, including a recent deal that syndicates critic reviews from Rotten Tomatoes to Flixster’s online movie community, both on the Web and via Flixster’s mobile apps.

Since its inception in early 2006, Flixster has rapidly become the Web’s largest community for movie fans, with more than 20 million monthly users.

As the web’s leading aggregator of reviews from top movie critics, Rotten Tomatoes offers the most comprehensive guide to movies, and its TomatometerTM rating – based on the published opinions of hundreds of film critics – is a trusted measurement of movie quality for millions of moviegoers. The site has also seen tremendous year-over year growth, with its monthly unique user base rising on average nearly 40 percent in each of the past five months compared to the same months in 2008.

The deal follows a series of moves by IGN Entertainment to refocus its efforts on building out its suite of game-related and men’s-lifestyle offerings. The company recently launched Game On, a videogames-dedicated portal on MSN, and its network of sites currently reaches the most concentrated audience of males 18 to 34 and technology influencers on the Web today.

About Flixster

At home or on the go, Flixster provides audiences with access to local theaters and showtimes, trailers and quizzers, plus the ability to post reviews and exchange opinions with their friends – and the entire worldwide Flixster community. Flixster users have posted more than 2.3 billion reviews and have created literally hundreds of thousands of movie quizzes. Flixster’s online homepage is at www.flixster.com, and its “Movies” application is installed on more than 20 percent of iPhones in the U.S. Flixster applications are also available for the Blackberry, Palm Pre and for Android-powered mobile devices. The privately held Flixster Inc. is based in San Francisco, with representatives in Los Angeles, New York and Seattle.

About IGN Entertainment

IGN Entertainment, a unit of News Corporation, is the leading Internet media and services provider focused on the videogame and entertainment enthusiast markets. Collectively, IGN’s properties reached more than 47.5 million unique users worldwide in October 2009, according to Internet audience measurement firm comScore Media Matrix. IGN’s network of videogame-related properties (IGN.com, GameSpy, FilePlanet, TeamXbox, Direct2Drive and others) is one of the Web’s leading videogame information destinations. IGN also owns the leading male lifestyle website AskMen.com. In addition, IGN provides technology for online game play in videogames. IGN is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, with offices across North America, Europe and Australia.

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