15 Movies And Shows That Got Bonkers Reactions From Test Audiences

By:
Anchorman

DreamWorks Pictures

We can all thank test audiences for teaching Martin Scorsese that less is often more (see Goodfellas), and we applaud them for having such a positive response to Kill Bill: Vol 2 that not even Harvey Weinstein could come in and cut the film to shreds (as he often did).

Sometimes, however, test audience reactions are wild, and while many examples in this list are from the olden days when life was different and people were a different kind of weird, it’s fascinating to see what audiences once thought of movies that went on to have varying degrees of success. For instance …

Uh, People Were Weird About Big

20th Century Studios

Remember that movie where Tom Hanks is a kid who wakes up in an adult’s body and then has a thing with adult Elizabeth Perkins before turning back into a child? Storytelling, what a concept. In any case, back in the day test audiences were most disappointed that Perkins was left unhappy by all this strange shenanigans, so they suggested Perkins, too, should turn into a child and go back to her child lover. Oy. 

Test Audiences Cut Maya Rudolph From Anchorman (How Dare They)

DreamWorks Pictures

Yes, in a move deserving of the most severe judgment, the test audience did not care for the movie’s original plot that saw Rudolph and other familiars play The Alarm Clock gang, a revolutionary political group who robs banks and captures Veronica Corningstone to make some sort of point. It’s hard to imagine anyone not wanting to see that today.

American Test Audiences Changed A Bond Movie Title

United International Pictures

When the 1989 Licence to Kill was test screened, it was originally titled Licence Revoked since, you know, that’s what happens in the movie. British audiences had no problem with that title, but in the United States, people couldn’t separate it from the phrase that meant losing one’s driver’s licence, and the title was changed.

Legally Blonde Test Audiences Didn’t Care About Selma Blair’s Character

20th Century Studios

At the end of the movie, we see Elle Woods on stage, giving her graduation speech and getting the guy. Only, the original ending saw her team up with Blair’s character, Vivian — who had a character arc that took her from being a beige-wearing prep school snob to finding her own agency without a man on her arm — as they start a Blonde Legal Defense Fund on campus. Test audiences, however, wanted it to be all about Elle and her future career, making it less Girl Power and more Girl Boss.

Tank Girl Was Screened For The Wrong Audience

United Artists

This was really the fault of the studio who wanted to market the film to teenagers, causing a bunch of teens to give feedback on a movie about a rebel anarchist comic character so badass, it’s difficult imagining Tank Girl not being made for a more adult audience. Alas, the teens spoke, the studio listened, and the movie was severely watered down.

We Almost Didn’t Get Seven’s Infamous (And Very Good) Ending (Twice)

New Line Cinema

New Line Cinema initially rejected the draft containing the shocking box scene ending, but that draft (and not the revised one) ended up being sent to David Fincher by mistake, causing it to be included in his cut. The test audience seemed to agree with the studio execs, as Fincher once recalled: “I’m standing in the back of the theater, I think I was with Bob Shaye and these three women come by and one of them says to the other two, ‘The people who made that movie should be killed.’”

Brad Pitt told Marc Maron on the WTF Podcast: “OK if you remember, the movie ends, they flick on the lights and I look at people. And they just kind of slowly get up from their seats and no one’s talking. Then, they just kind of disappear from the screening. I remember just looking at Fincher and going, ‘Oh my god, what the fuck did we do? What happened. What’s going? I thought this shit was great.”

A Bunch Of Kids Almost Caused “A Part Of Your World” To Be Cut From The Little Mermaid

Darn kids. The studio initially tested the movie on a group of school kids who got so rowdy during that specific song — apparently someone dropped their popcorn and chaos ensued — that one of the producers was sure they had to cut the song from the movie. It took a lot of persuasion from the team to keep the now iconic song.

The People Didn’t Want Vince Vaugh And Jennifer Aniston To Break Up In The Break-Up

Universal Pictures

The test audience saw the original ending, which made a clear split between the two characters who, as the title suggests, broke up. They did not care for it, however, and said that there should be a spark of hope for their beloved Jen in the end. No word on whether they also rallied to change the movie’s title to The Make-Up.

Dirty Dancing’s Test Audience Hated Everything Good About It

Lionsgate

The film was so loathed by everyone who watched the test screenings that the studio almost sent it straight to video. Producer Aaron Russo reportedly told the filmmakers to “burn the negative and take the insurance,” and most early viewers thought it was pure junk.

Friends Scored 41 Out Of A 100 With Test Audiences

Warner Bros. Pictures

The people did not like the sitcom during initial screenings. Audience members found the pilot “not very entertaining, clever, or original,” and thought the group of friends were “superficial, and self-absorbed.” Sure, pretty normal reactions there, but what’s really bonkers is that they found the coffee house setting “confusing.” As in, it totally threw them off. 

Probably because, up to then, all sitcoms were either set in bars or diners.

Blame The Test Audience For Deep Blue Sea’s Silly Ending

Note to studios: When an audience member’s feedback card says “Kill the bitch,” ask yourself what that’s really about. Sure, people were mad at the movie’s selfish scientist Dr. Susan McCallister messing around with sharks and subsequently killing everyone in the movie, but if test audiences didn’t go on about how she had to die, we might never have had one of the most head-scratching self-sacrifices in cinematic history.

Test Audiences Did Not Care For The Theatrical Ending Of Little Shop Of Horrors

Warner Bros. Pictures

In the theater musical, the toothy plant Audrey II kills Seymour Krelborn and Audrey before going to war and taking over New York. Test audiences for the movie, however, did not enjoy seeing the couple get murdered by a gigantic plant. Said Frank Oz:  "For every musical number, there was applause, they loved it, it was just fantastic ... until Rick and Ellen died, and then the theater became a refrigerator, an ice box. It was awful, and the cards were just awful. You have to have a 55 percent 'recommend' to really be released, and we got a 13. It was a complete disaster.” 

And that’s how we got the ending where the plant is killed and the humans live. Typical.

Fatal Attraction Almost Had A Way Better Ending

Paramount Pictures

Originally, the movie where Glenn Close stalks the married man she had a one-night stand with ended in Close slitting her throat and framing said married man for murdering her. This, apparently, wasn’t thrilling enough for test audiences back in 1987, and that’s how we got the man's wife killing Close instead. 

Close herself did not agree with the new ending, saying that her character’s obsession would naturally lead her to “self-destruct.” “The original ending was a gorgeous piece of film noir," she said. “She kills herself, but makes sure that his prints are all over the knife, and he gets arrested. He knows he didn't do it, but he's going to jail anyway. But audiences wanted some kind of cathartic ending.”

Test Audiences Didn’t Understand The Love Triangle In Starship Troopers

Sony Pictures

Apparently people back in the ‘90s couldn’t understand how a woman could be into two guys, and did not care for the original version that saw Denise Richard’s character Carmen Ibanez torn between her love for both Johnny Rico and Zander Barcalow. The more nuanced scenes were cut, and a scene near the end where Carmen kisses Rico was also axed because the audience thought it was “immoral” for Carmen to do that after Zander died. They were so against Richard’s character for choosing her career over Rico that they wanted her to die in the end instead. Imagine that.

Thumbnail: DreamWorks Pictures

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