Prescreening or advanced screenings have been a part of the motion picture industry since the late 1920’s. It’s a tool used by producers, directors and marketing teams to make adjustments to the film or marketing plan before it’s released to the general public. I’ve attended numerous prescreenings over the years and find them fascinating.
Director Kevin Smith sat quietly in the back of the theater when I screened Jersey Girl. He was incognito to learn if the Ben Affleck film would work with its Jennifer Lopez opening during their heated controversy. After the film, there were a series of questions that drew out the needed information for Smith to make a decision.
I was amazed at the audience’s response and realized they gave him a precious gift in how to fix the film before it failed. Unfortunately, he decided not to heed the audience’s ideas and released the film unchanged. The film flopped at the box office and didn’t come close to breaking even.
And yes, I did take time after the screening to chat with Smith about directing. I always take advantage of learning from experts in the industry whenever I can.
Unfortunately, audiences aren’t always truthful. Viewers of the Faith-Based genre are known for lying about prescreened films to avoid making the filmmaker feel bad. They feel it’s their job to encourage the filmmaker, not reveal the reality of his potential disaster. This results in the filmmaker releasing his film with confidence, followed by shock when he learns that the film failed because of something simple he could’ve changed had the prescreening audience been truthful instead of courteous.
I’ve also been to several screenings where the marketing took detailed notes that the director used to alter the film. In every case, the final film was significantly better than what the director had ever imagined. The audience is always right when it comes to their honest view of a film.
This week I received an advanced screening notice for Princess Cut. It’s a film made by my friend Paul Munger. I haven’t seen it yet, nor have I read the script, but I’d like to give my readers the opportunity to attend one of the advanced screenings.
As I understand it, this screening wasn’t designed to help contour the film to the audience’s taste or perspective. It was designed to test the film with an audience to determine if it should get a general theatrical release or go straight to video. Unfortunately, I haven’t chatted with Paul yet to learn if there are other reasons for the limited screenings.
For those located in other states, you can click here for screenings in your area.
When films are prescreened for adjustments or for the press, the screenings are typically free. However, screenings designed to build a grassroots movement of support for a film are charged the going rate for each theater. This positions the audience to respond to the value of the film against its out of pocket costs for viewing it – A true indicator of the film’s ability to draw a crowd and entertain.
I plan on attending the Rosemont screening and hope to see you there.
Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers