Should we trust test audiences?

Do poor audience test scores mean that a film will flop?
Do poor audience test scores mean that a film will flop? | Abbie Warnock
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In recent weeks, both Marvel and DC studios have decided to push back some of their next installments in their cinematic universes. The Hollywood Reporter reported that The Marvels had been pushed back from July 28 to November 10, 2023.

On Feb. 26, YouTuber Grace Randolph gave the inside scoop as to why the next Marvel installment was delayed: poor reactions from test audiences.

“The Marvels was pushed from Summer to Winter due to poor audience test scores so Marvel wants to do yet another round of reshoots to avoid, well, another round of this kind of mess,” Randolph said.

Poor audience test scores more often than not get studios to change up the story, but whether or not it’s for the best, well, sometimes the changes work and sometimes they don’t. The following are movies that changed themselves based on test screening.

‘I Am Legend’

The Will Smith-led post-apocalyptic film based on the popular book made some drastic changes, specifically with the ending. Originally, the film was going to end with the Darkseekers tracking down Smith’s character, Dr. Robert Neville, but not because they wanted to kill him, but because he had kidnapped their leader’s girlfriend and experimented on her like he did with a bunch of Darkseekers (who he wound up killing), thus revealing that he’s been the villain the whole time while the Darkseekers were more civilized than we thought.


However, test audiences did not like the twist. Hence, the studio decided instead to have Neville sacrifice himself to save humanity. An ending with a heroic sacrifice, sure, but the film may have been remembered better today had they gone with the more thought-provoking conclusion.

‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’

While the cult comic book film is revered for its energetic style (and excellent cast), what fans debate tirelessly about is the ending. In the theatrical cut, Scott winds up with the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers, thanks to the encouragement of his ex-girlfriend Knives Chau. However, they went with this ending because test audiences did not like how the film was originally supposed to end.

Originally, Scott was supposed to end up with his original girlfriend Knives, but test audiences wanted him to end up with Ramona like the comics, thus creating some division among fans as to who Scott should have dated in the end. Whether or not it was a good decision to end the film like that depends on who you ask.

‘Thor: The Dark World’

As it turns out, Marvel has altered its endings in the past. If they had stuck with their guns for this one, who knows what impact it would have on the MCU today? “Thor: The Dark World” is not among the MCU’s fan favorites, but maybe that wouldn’t be the case had they gone with their original ending — permanently killing off Loki.

According to Tom Hiddleston, Marvel’s original plan was to kill off Thor’s brother, but test audiences weren’t too keen on that, so his death turned out to be yet another one of his tricks. That would have sent off a chain reaction knowing the projects he’s been involved with since. Had they gone with Loki permanently getting the ax, maybe “Thor: The Dark World” would be remembered better than it usually has been among fans.

Sometimes, test audiences get it right

With all this talk about test audiences, we also have to keep in mind that sometimes, the fans get it right. Remember the uproar when the original live-action design of “Sonic the Hedgehog” was released? Studios went back to the drawing board and a much better one was then released.

But other times, test audiences get it wrong. Test audiences did not like the heartbreaking ending of “Seven,” but that didn’t stop studios from going with it, and now it’s remembered for having one of the best endings of all time.


In Marvel’s case, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” suffering significant box office decline following its opening weekend is not welcome news for them. Marvel understandably wants to keep fan interest alive, so if they feel reshoots could keep that going, that’s good thinking. However, if “The Marvels” does not give them the box office return they’re hoping for, and the original ending gets leaked, this could turn into another installment of what could have been.