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AUDIENCE-OLOGY

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Goetz, who has worked in the movie research industry for 30 years and founded his own firm, Screen Engine/ASI, in 2010, has plenty of great stories to tell. He reveals how the memorable opening scene of La La Landdidn’t become part of the Oscar-winning movie until after screening audiences were confused by the musical’s original opening. He discusses how audience reaction led Steven Spielberg to reshoot scenes in Jaws, which “was graphic, gruesome, and disturbing, and to a 1975 audience…unlike anything they had ever seen before.” He also reveals how audiences were initially confused by Moonstruck, but once the filmmakers swapped out the opera in the opening montage for Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore,” everyone realized the Cher film was a comedy. Throughout, the author recounts well-told stories about angry directors and anxious studio executives at movie screenings, explaining that he is also passionate about what he does. “I’m also not about to just state the numbers that we collect on the surveys,” he writes. “I’m providing perspective from decades of experience, interpreting what those numbers mean.” However, Goetz doesn’t provide a thorough discussion of whether the audience screenings and collected data can hurt a film. He quotes director Ang Lee saying, “Picasso never audience-tested his paintings,” and then argues against it, without talking to Lee—or Quentin Tarantino or Clint Eastwood, other directors who generally don’t use screening research. The author’s belief in the importance of audience research is well supported, but without letting anyone argue the other side, it makes the book feel a little self-serving.

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