Preview audiences don’t get film credits, but their sound and occasional
fury count in the prerelease cutting, reshaping and retooling of the movies.
More and more, filmmakers are showing their movies at selected theatres—months
before their official release dates—to gauge audience reaction and make
necessary changes. In Pretty In Pink Molly Ringwald would have ended
up with short, funny-looking “Ducky” (Jon Cryer) instead of the hansom
rich kid (Andrew McCarthy) had it not been for the disapproval of preview
audiences. Producers inserted two extra love scenes into Top Gun
at the behest of fans. And The Big Chill’s original ending—a flashback
to the group’s hippie days at the University of Michigan—was lopped off
when fans didn’t buy the actors as college-age kids. More recently,
audiences dictated a major change in the ending of Little Shop Of Horrors.
Originally, the winsome hero and heroine were eaten by the movie’s bloodthirsty
plant; after preview screenings, they were allowed to live. “I can’t
stress this enough,” says a Columbia Pictures executive. “Preview audiences
are more important than ever. With the financial stakes so high,
you have to take all the outside help you can get”.