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Insiders confirm that extremely rare if not unprecedented score, saying the movie, which Disney is set to release May 5, bested the previous top Marvel scorers, Iron Man 3 and Avengers, both of which tested in the high 90s out of 100.
All studios conduct audience test screenings of their movies, mostly through a process of recruiting people (sometimes at grocery stores or malls) in areas outside of Los Angeles. The audience is shown the movie and asked to rate using a series of boxes marked excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor that is then scaled. Follow-up questionnaires and discussions also occur with studios also looking at whether or not audience members would recommend the movie or not.
Marvel, however, culls from a more select pool of recruits, what it terms “friends and families screenings.” It’s larger than one might think and still a vigorous testing procedure, not a celebratory reception. It’s one way for Marvel to control security and prevent leaks of either plot spoilers or footage from getting out. And it’s a process Marvel has employed since the first Iron Man.
But because the Marvel testing process is not as random as other studio procedures, the 100 score for Guardians 2 is not necessarily able to be compared to other non-Marvel movies. And testing, of course, is a complicated process and not indicative of a movie’s box office performance or reviews.
In fact, producers and studio executives caution at putting too much meaning into test scores, pointing out the scores are best at gauging where audiences engage or disengage. “It’s a single tool in a whole toolbox arsenal,” says one producer.
Pretty Woman tested in the 70s, according to one former Disney executive, and that romantic comedy went on to become a massive hit and catapulted Julia Roberts to the A-list. Black Swan, the thriller that won Natalie Portman an Oscar, never tested above a 55, according to an insider.
Forrest Gump scored 88, which was the highest-testing movie in Paramount’s history for a while. Argo, Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning thriller, scored in the 90s. Horror movies, say executives, tend to test in 60s, although The Conjuring tested at 91. Deadpool, Fox’s R-rated hit action movie featuring the Marvel character, scored a 96.
“What an audience enjoys isn’t necessarily what it responds to,” says another executive who has been through the process.
(TV shows also do testing. Glee and Hill Street Blues had low test scores, yet audiences immediately embraced them and both went on to make their mark on pop culture.)
Some movies, such as the Transformers sequels, don’t test at all, sometimes due to the leeway afforded to filmmakers or because the movie is so special effects-heavy that much of the film isn’t done until very late. And some don’t test due to secrecy concerns, as is the case with the new Star Wars films.
Guardians 2 is heading into the summer aloft with expectations and mighty buzz. The initial movie, released in 2014, was a surprise box office hit, grossing $773 million worldwide and generated wide acclaim, scoring a 92 percent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
Guardians 2, which reunites director James Gunn with his cast, including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista, received a significant boost last weekend when its Super Bowl spot was one of the best-received movie ads during the most-watched telecast of the year.
Disney and Marvel declined to comment.
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