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How Moviegoers Shape the Films We Love

Simon Element,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

Every movie costs millions, so producers use data from early screenings to shape content and marketing.

Editorial Rating



  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging
  • Insider's Take


With millions riding on every film, even genius auteur directors can no longer make movies without asking how an audience will respond. Cinema research expert Kevin Goetz (writing with data analyst Darlene Hayman) knows moviegoers’ reactions make or break a film, and he offers rich advice about mining their insights. Testing can tell filmmakers how to fix their movies, thereby making the difference between a dud and a hit or turning a good movie into a smash. Goetz, who knows how to tell a good story, interviews movie legends and shares their engaging inside yarns about famous films. His insights on using information to make strategic decisions can help any business that relies on data.



Filmmakers rely on test audiences’ reactions to shape sales tactics for their movies.

Kevin Goetz founded his movie-testing agency, Screen Engine/ASI, after nearly two decades in the business. He conducts feedback sessions with test audiences to gather and interpret their impressions and then relays their conclusions candidly to filmmakers. Testing enables them to fix any problems before their films reach theaters and streaming platforms.

Goetz moved to California to pursue acting. He joined the audience-testing company National Research Group (NRG) in 1987. It screened movies for test audiences made up of people from each film’s targeted demographic group. The audiences would watch an unfinished movie with a temporary music soundtrack and then fill out a questionnaire. A subgroup would remain for a Q&A with moderators who asked questions to drill down into audience responses, pinpoint problems or better understand what in the film worked the way filmmakers intended – and what didn’t.

Goetz worked at NRG for 16 years, moderating testing discussions three or four ...

About the Authors

Kevin Goetz, who has produced 12 movies, founded Screen Engine/ASI, where Darlene Hayman is a veteran research analyst specializing in motion pictures.

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