After a number of dramatic situations behind the scenes of DC Extended Universe movies, particularly Justice League, Aquaman makes it look like Warner Bros. learned some important lessons - but could have learned a few more. Aquaman is a major milestone for the DCEU, becoming the second movie in the franchise to garner an overall positive critical evaluation, while also becoming the highest grossing DC movie of all time.
The franchise has been profitable (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and Wonder Woman are all in Warner Bros. top 20 all-time earners), it's been marked by behind the scenes issues, critical slogging, and financial underperformance, all coming to a head in Justice League, where Zack Snyder was replaced as the director, a significant portion of the movie was altered in reshoots, and the final product both failed to woo critics and bombed at the box office.
All eyes were on Aquaman as the next step, so the fact that it saw a positive critical evaluation and won big at the box office is a good thing for the franchise. Thanks to a behind the scenes glimpse of the test screening process, we now know what Aquaman was like during production as well. Fortunately, it's nowhere near as messy as Suicide Squad or Justice League, with James Wan seemingly being allowed to make the movie he wanted to make (mostly), there's evidence that Warner Bros. learned some big important lessons from Justice League, but may still have a way to go in the way they manage production of DCEU movies.
- This Page: How the Test Screening Process Works
- Page 2: What Was the Impact of Aquaman's Test Screenings?
How The Test Screening Process Works
In order to iron out any kinks in their movies prior to release, many movies go through a test screening process so the director and studio can get an idea of how audiences will react, taking some feedback into account to potentially make a movie more palatable to general audiences. Details of the test screening process aren't normally made public outside of leaks from some attendees that don't honor their non-disclosure agreements, but thanks to this new insight from the Fire and Water podcast guest Neil Daly, an independent freelance market research analyst and focus group moderator, who facilitates test screenings and moderates focus groups for DC movies, we know a little more about the process Aquaman went through.
The test screening process targets all major demographics to make sure it has appeal to all 4 quadrants - males under 25, males over 25, females under 25, and females over 25. The studio has a list of questions they want to know about the movie, so someone like Neil will select a focus group of around 20 members from the audience after the screening for a more focused discussion. Based on the feedback, the person running the screening will then give a presentation to the studio with the findings and the studio will then make adjustments to try to accommodate for specific changes they'd like.
Test screenings are hardly a perfect process, and while they can help to get some early feedback on a movie, incorporating that feedback doesn't always guarantee the movie will be a hit. In fact, while some directors value them as an important tool during a movie's post-production process, others don't desire the feedback as it can water down a strong vision, and obviously usually leads to major story leaks ahead of time.
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