Feedback is touted as a crucial part of the moviemaking process but when it came to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, audiences didn’t have the opportunity to offer their opinions about the movie prior to its theatrical release on Dec. 20, 2019, in what’s known in show business as test screenings.
That’s right, no lucky group of people received a sneak peek of an unfinished version of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to critique the film and give the director, J.J. Abrams, and the rest of the production team an idea about whether or not they were on the right track with aspects of the film such as the plot, dialogue, and music.
Typically following test screenings, the production team heads back to the editing room to make changes to things the audience pointed out in the test screening or they go the more drastic route and scrap scenes altogether and undergo re-shoots.
The latest installment in the Star Wars franchise stands in stark contrast another massive release of the year, Avengers: Endgame, which underwent not one but numerous test screenings before the superhero movie initially hit theaters on April 26, 2019.
J.J. Abrams: ‘friends and family’ watched ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’
During a conversation with Esquire published on Nov. 25, 2019, Abrams discussed test screenings and early audience feedback. He revealed the only people who had seen the film at that point were those closest to him.
“Of course I’ve shown it at a friends and family screening, but we’ve never done like a test screening,” the director said.
‘Avengers: Endgame’ directors held multiple test screenings
Joe and Anthony Russo, who directed Avengers: Endgame, a film that shattered many, many box office records when it hit theaters, have been forthcoming during interviews about their use of test screenings. The superhero film underwent at least four test screenings, according to AOL.
In a conversation with Box office Pro published on April 23, 2019, the Russo brothers talked about how they “spend months in the edit room twisting and turning the narrative a bunch of different ways until we think we’ve unlocked the best one” then show what they’ve got to a select group of viewers.
“We’re vigilant about using test audiences to tell us whether we’re on the right track or we’re making bad decisions,” they said. “With ‘Endgame,’ it had one of the most incredible audience responses in Marvel history.”
When the directors weren’t sure Marvel fans would go for the length of the movie — Avengers: Endgame has an approximate runtime of three hours — they deferred to viewers who enjoyed it so much, “not a single person got up to use the bathroom,” the Russo brothers told Collider in Feb. 2019.
Test screenings don’t equal success
Simply because Avengers: Endgame went through multiple test screenings and became a massive success doesn’t mean the newest Star Wars movie will fail because they opted out of early audience critiques.
It’s expected to put up similar — or better — numbers than the superhero epic at the box office and in Oct. 2019, the Star Wars film beat Avengers: Endgame for the highest number of presale tickets sold thanks to dedicated fans and an ad spot during Monday Night Football.
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