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How test screenings work

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OvomorphMember0 XPMay-07-2012 4:54 PMI work for a company that pre-screens films for major production companies. I've worked for this organization for about 15 years, and I wanted to share with you how the test screening process works. Also, let me clarify that there is a big difference between a test screening and an advanced screening. More about that in a second. Basically, we assemble test audiences, show the film, collect their responses, and submit the data to the production company. Back in the day, we used to hand each audience member a clipboard with questions on it. Nowadays, we have electronic handheld "thingies" with basic questions on them. The number of questions depend on the film. For example, we pre-screened Jurassic Park III, and there were only three questions that we asked, one of which was, "Would you want to see a Jurassic Park IV?" Test screenings are very select and very private. Most test audience members are asked to not share the movie's plot with others, though it happens more times than not. This is how bad information gets out, because the production company will often go back and change a movie based on the test audience's reaction. So a spoiler could end up on the cutting room floor by the time it is leaked (e.g. Captain Kirk's original death in Star Trek: Generations). Advanced screenings are different and are dependent upon location. Some theaters will release the film the night before, and some locations will release the film much sooner, but only according to the production company. Remember - theaters don't have the actual "film" in their possession until the production company sends it to them. Even when its sent, theaters usually keep them under lock and key until the actual release date. If someone comes out and claims to have seen the movie in either an advanced screening or claim to be have been part of a test audience, do not believe them. Test audiences for the Star Wars prequels were selected carefully by Lucas Films, and they didn't comprise your average "Joe". In fact, most test screenings were held on the Skywalker Ranch. I have a friend who works for Fandango, and he said that he doesn't know of any advanced screenings anywhere in the nation for Prometheus. The soonest one I've heard of will be in the UK on May 31st, but that should be common knowledge right now. I post this primarily to tell my "Prometheus friends" not to trust all of this spoiler junk on the internet. Rumors are fun to entertain, but until you see the movie with your own eyes, consider all rumors with a grain of salt. -Thomas
17 Responses to How test screenings work

Ripley Clone 8

OvomorphMember0 XPMay-07-2012 4:58 PMThanks for this insightful thread azalard!

David 1

OvomorphMember0 XPMay-07-2012 4:59 PMHello azalard/Thomas. This is a very interesting Thread. I wouldn't mind being a part of one of those screanings either. If my humble opinion would get to the proper people envolved in the movie directing/production. Cheers
[b]Ask nothing from no one. Demand nothing from no one. Expect nothing from no one.[/b]


OvomorphMember0 XPMay-07-2012 5:07 PMThanks for the interesting information. Cheers

NCC 1701

OvomorphMember22 XPMay-07-2012 5:37 PMsounds like a fun job ,,,,Right on ,good info


OvomorphMember0 XPMay-07-2012 6:07 PM"How things work" One of my favourite topics, kudos to you.
Ridley Scott will eventually tell us how the Queen was born. Right now we have the Deacon; coming soon the Mercury, the May and the Taylor.

Chairman Meows

OvomorphMember0 XPMay-07-2012 6:13 PMII have also had the opportunity to go to a few test screenings and just wanted to add that in some of the screenings I have seen, the special effects may not always be complete or put into the film at all at this point so its not like you are seeing the theatrical release.


PraetorianAdmin4301 XPMay-07-2012 6:17 PMThank you for posting this. Very kind of you. <3


OvomorphMember0 XPMay-07-2012 6:57 PMthanks or the info. I honestly believe this this post more than anything else I've read today. (aside from the official rating).


OvomorphMember0 XPMay-07-2012 7:05 PMthanks for the info indeed, gives a useful frame to what we're reading here and there indeed. Thx again for the earlier PM too, also.


OvomorphMember0 XPMay-07-2012 7:08 PM@ Chairman - You're absolutely right. In fact, many of the test screenings are missing key items, such as CGI backdrops and characters. The most common item that's missing in a test screening is the film's score. Very few test screenings are comprised of the final product and are held during the film's post production process. Our company has never worked directly with 20th Century Fox, so we didn't get the opportunity to screen Prometheus. Even if we had, I wouldn't have been there to see it. It's been a long time since I've actually worked on that side of things. @ David 1 - My first job was at Cineplex Odeon in the Bay Area (California). I worked my way up to theater manager, and eventually onto district manager. In 1996, I landed the job I have now, thanks to the years spent working for the cinema industry. The first test screening I was involved with was for "Starship Troopers". In fact, the bug creatures were just green silhouettes during the screening. It looked extremely lame, but the feedback was initially positive. We actually have certain demographics that we target, with regards to test audiences, though I don't work specifically in that area. I deal mostly on the promotional side, and I get cool things from the production companies, like hats, sippie cups, and backpacks. On a side note, I haven't paid for a movie in eons! :-) -Thomas


OvomorphMember0 XPMay-07-2012 9:39 PMI just saw it! The blue guys are Smurfs, everyone dies, and the whole thing is just Ripley's bad dream.

David 1

OvomorphMember0 XPMay-08-2012 7:24 AMThanks for the kind Reply Thomas. Do you know if there are people who are chosen to watch those screanings and give their personal inputs? As in "well, that part when the Bug eats his own head was interesting, but I would zoom on it for a couple of seconds" ... kind of stuff? You are one lucky man, Thomas.
[b]Ask nothing from no one. Demand nothing from no one. Expect nothing from no one.[/b]


OvomorphMember0 XPMay-12-2012 12:34 PMwell i've been to advance screenings alot now and hearing about prometheus being screened may be true. im looking for screening information in nyc but only see stuff for the uk screenings. ridley is from the u.k so i would just assume they would screen it in the uk first before usa plus the film is out before the us release date so it would probably happen for a screening to take place before hand. it seems that now the studios check online to see what people are talking about in the screenings if they need to change things or not. i knwo they did that with avengers since the first one that happened in nyc on the 14th of april, i notice just a few things changed from the screening to the actual release version but they were only very minor things (just some very very tiny edits were made to the film, its still the same film basically). im assuming the screenings for prometheus are true but since im not in the uk to confirm im gonna have to take their word for it.


OvomorphMember0 XPMay-12-2012 12:39 PMalso they're screening films like red dawn, doesn't come out till november-december but there are already screenings for it in nyc happening since last month and there wasn't a focus group for it. they do it for people that go to screenings to spread the word out and make changes base off of peoples reactions to it online in videos and written reviews. i knwo they still do focus group screenings and paid participation ones still but they seem to be very very rare now.


OvomorphMember0 XPMay-16-2012 5:01 PMI have seen two test screenings, but I would love to see this and Dark Knight Rises. These 2 movies r must sees since I saw Avengers.
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