The Movie Critics That Really Count

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”.