12 Movies Studios Tried (And Failed) To Fix After Fan Reactions

The great disturbance of test screenings: as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in criticism.

Prozac Nation Poster Christina Ricci
Miramax

Fans can be an unpredictable force when it comes to film-making and, while they can often have a positive impact on proceedings (Jeremy Saulnier's excellent Blue Ruin was made possible via crowdfunding), studios should be wary about putting the whims of the average person before their directors.

Generally speaking, movie studios are quite savvy in their approach to the release, marketing and distribution of films, using test screenings to take the temperature of audience reactions to what is often a work in progress (films usually being near to the end of their filming or production). If the reaction is overwhelmingly negative, a studio will dial down their marketing and cinematic release run for that particular title, saving them time and money in the long run via a strange sort of pre-cognitive damage control.

However, if there are perceived to be failing elements of a film that are either too big to dial back on, or if the elements in question are perceived by the big wigs to be marginal enough as to sort, they will often order re-shoots, additional footage and specific scene- or film-altering edits to try and align a film with what they see as the clearest route to financial success - frequently at the expense of the director's vision.

Many auteurs demand final cut to avoid this very practice, but for many it is simply out of their hands - often not having the leverage against a big studio when they sign on to a project.

12. Tank Girl (1995)

Prozac Nation Poster Christina Ricci
United Artists

Adapted from the Jamie Hewlitt comic property (Gorillaz), Tank Girl should have been a smash hit for fans and everyone else, providing a subversive cinematic experience aesthetically wedged between early-'90s grunge and late-'90s Europop, catering to all tastes.

Unfortunately, test screenings prompted MGM to pull the film apart at the seams, weeding out anything that might have given early-teens' parents cause for concern - a $5000 prosthetic penis, anyone? - and robbing it not just of its edge and fully developed plot, but of many of the hallmarks that fans of the comics would relish.

To say the film tanked would be an understatement, as it ended up taking just six million at the box office, against a $26 million budget. The critical response was middling to awful, but in the years following the picture picked up something of a cult following.

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Contributor

Writer, editor and lifelong critic of test screenings, money men and films-by-committee. Let the work speak for itself, even if it has the voice of Moaning Myrtle.