Remembering Test Screening Pioneer Joseph Farrell

It’s easy to take audience research methods employed today by the Hollywood studios for granted. But none were really in use until Joseph Farrell introduced them through his company National Research Group (NRG).

In the wake of Farrell’s death last week from natural causes, studio executives and others are paying tribute to this marketing trailblazer’s lasting contributions to the way the industry tries to mitigate opening weekend risk. Per today’s LA Times piece by Rebecca Keegan:

The 1987 thriller Fatal Attraction got a new ending when test screenings revealed that audiences wanted Glenn Close‘s character to be punished for tormenting Michael Douglas‘ adulterous character and his wife, played by Anne Archer

In NRG’s early years, Farrell and his longtime business partner, Catherine Paura, conducted their own research interviews in parking lots, sometimes bribing children with ice cream cones to participate.

Francis Ford Coppola was an early supporter of NRG with Apocalypse Now. In 1996, the firm was sold to Dutch conglomerate VNU for $44 million.

[Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures]