Popular film website Rotten Tomatoes has temporarily disabled comments on pages containing reviews of "The Dark Knight Rises" due to an extraordinary number of hateful messages and even death threats posted in response to negative reviews of the anticipated blockbuster.
The site is operated by Flixster.com, a Warner Bros. company. The firm's studio is the distributor of "The Dark Knight Rises" - the third Batman flick in Christopher Nolan's trilogy, which stars Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway and is set to hit theaters on Friday, July 20.
"OK, everybody out of the pool. We've temporarily disabled comments on reviews for The Dark Knight Rises for a few days," read a message posted on behalf of Rotten Tomatoes on the website's Twitter page on Tuesday.
Rotten Tomatoes aggregates reviews that were posted first on news and entertainment websites, wires and blogs. Matt Atchity, editor-in-chief of Rotten Tomatoes, told the Associated Press that the website has never disabled comments on a movie review before and that postings about "Dark Knight" reviews would likely be restored by the end of the week.
"The job of policing the comments became more than my staff could handle for that film, so we stopped the comments altogether," he said. "It just got to be too much hate based on reactions to reviews of movies that people hadn't even seen."
A message posted on Rotten Tomatoes' Twitter page also stated that the company is discussing the possibility of suspending comments permanently - on all pages containing reviews of all films.
The website hollywoodandfine.com was the first to publish a negative review of "The Dark Knight Rises" under the title "'The Dark Knight Rises': Grandiose, not grand" and was featured on Rotten Tomatoes. Comments still remain on the review's original page. Scores of posts, including those containing threats of violence and death, have been deleted since the review was posted on July 16 but many hateful ones still remain.
Hateful, libelous and threatening comments have for years been a problem for websites that allow readers to express opinions on their content. Many employ moderators and implement certain restrictions to try and stop the "flamers." Some websites have stopped allowing comments all together.
As of Wednesday, July 18, "The Dark Knight Rises" is currently "certified fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes, as 87 percent of its aggregated reviews are positive. Among "top critics," who write for the largest and most popular outlets, the figure stands at 84 percent positive.