Two days ago Deadline‘s Anthony D’Allesandro and Anita Busch reported the following about the Rotten Tomatoes effect on soul-smothering would-be blockbusters, to wit: “Both Pirates 5 and Baywatch started high on tracking four weeks ago, $90 to $100 million over four days and $50 million over five days, respectively. [But] the minute Rotten Tomatoes hit, those estimates collapsed.

“Over the weekend it was heard that some studio insiders want to hold off critic screenings until opening day or cancel them all together (that’s pretty ambitious and would cause much ire, we’ll see if that ever happens). Already, studios and agencies are studying RT scores’ impact on advance ticket sales and tracking.”

I’ve asked this before, but when exactly did the Rotten Tomatoes effect change? Because it wasn’t that many years ago that I was hearing over and over that ticket buyers either (a) routinely dismissed film-critic opinions due to their dweeby, elitist, ivory-tower perspectives, and (b) were too dumb or distracted to check aggregate movie-reviewing sites (i.e., Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic), and that (c) mostly they just decided to see stuff based on gut reactions to trailers and the Twitter/Facebook chatter that followed.

When did all this change? The first stirrings I recall was when The Lone Ranger tanked and both producer Jerry Bruckheimer and costar Armie Hammer blamed critics.

As damaging as a shitty RT or Metacritic grade may be, the stink always seems to be worse when a distributor doesn’t screen the film at all. Joe Popcorn can smell trouble when this happens, which is why marketers will almost certainly stick to the usual pattern (i.e., screen stupid blockbusters a couple of days before they open).