An Oral History of RT, Part Three: Ripe Tomatoes
In the third part of our series, the hard work of RT's founders starts to pay big dividends.here and part two here.) In this installment, we cover the early to mid 2000s, a time during which the original RT crew's efforts began to pay off -- big time.
After surviving the dotcom boom and bust, Rotten Tomatoes began to establish itself as a key destination for movie fans. As RT grew, its staffers began to rub elbows with some of their heroes..
Patrick Lee: We started working with Jet Li to do his website back when we were doing Design Reactor. We continued hosting and maintaining it even during Rotten Tomatoes. As a thank-you to all of us for helping out with the site, he invited us all to his house in LA. We ended up doing a huge caravan of cars driving down to LA from the Bay Area. There were about 20 of us that went.
When we got to his house, he first gave us a tour of his place. Then after that, he knew we'd probably want to take pictures with him, so he had everyone go to the front of his house. We did a few group pictures, then he happily had us take individual pictures with him. After that, we went back inside. He knew that most of us would want him to sign stuff, so he offered. Almost everyone whipped out some DVD or other Jet Li-related item and he went through and signed everything. Then, with all of us sitting around his study, he was like "So, do you have anything you want to ask me?" Everyone started asking him all sorts of questions. He answered them for well over an hour! Then, to top it all off, he took us all to a very nice Mongolian BBQ restaurant and treated us all to lunch.
He was one of my idols ever since Senh showed me Once Upon a Time in China back at Berkeley and that just reinforced (times 100) my high opinion of him. We're still working with him now at alivenotdead.com. And, even more amazing, he's been spending the majority of his time promoting his charity, the One Foundation.
In addition, word of the site started to seep into mainstream consciousness -- as well as some of Hollywood's major players.
Patrick: Mark [Moran, a fellow RTer] and I, who were roommates at the time, are chilling at home. Mark is flipping through the channels and I come over and plop down on the couch. After jumping through a bunch of shows, he settles on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. So we're sitting there watching the show and laughing along, when he brings Mark Ruffalo on to interview him. During the course of the interview, Jon Stewart asks Mark, "So, have you ever heard of Rotten Tomatoes?" and then proceeds to explain the site and why it's a good service.
Mark and I are freaking out. Our jaws are on the floor. We're like, "Oh my God! Oh my God!" and trying to figure out who to tell! You cannot even begin to imagine how excited we were at the time. That was seriously one of the coolest things ever.
However, not everyone in the movie business was thrilled with the site...