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Is AI the future of Movie Test Screenings?

There are so many aspects of the media industry that may forever change in the wake of COVID. Some have become pretty obvious, while there will likely be others many of us haven’t even thought of yet.

One of these, which is either obvious or surprising depending on whom you ask, is test screening. Despite many issues with the traditional test screening, many studios still firmly believe in them, according to this article:

"Nothing can replicate the collective experience, the oohs and the ahs," says one top marketing executive. "Digital testing will work for some films, but not all. At the end of the day, I think filmmakers want their movies to be experienced for the first time in the format in which it will be presented."

Now, this is not for everything. The need to have a roomful of people seems relegated mostly to the larger, potential blockbusters, while some smaller films and TV shows are being screened in homes for a select group of people. This is the alternative that eliminates the issues surfaced by the pandemic, though there are other issues. Aside from concerns about piracy, there is a feeling that people sitting at home, with their phones and other distractions, just can’t give the necessary feedback studios are looking for.

But putting aside COVID, theatrical screenings are far from perfect.

One major issue is how much goes into a screening. You need to pick a location, pull in people, have them offer their opinions and then try to figure out how to make the movie actually connect with them. This is a time-consuming, costly process, and considering the amount of content being produced today, the resources just aren’t there. There is also the fact that no matter how representative you may want your audiences to be, they can only speak for so many others. They are bringing in their small range of tastes and opinions that could very well not explain what the audience at large really wants. After all, if that were true then every time a movie went back for reshoots, a critically-acclaimed sensation would be created.

So how can a studio prevent piracy, get a broad slice of opinions and efficiently handle all of the content that’s out there? With AI.

While Resonance AI cannot determine the film’s direct resonance when there haven’t been audiences for it to potentially resonate with, it can offer incredible insights based on the resonance of past releases.

How it works is by breaking down the audio and visual elements of past films and then ingesting the available metrics. By looking at the entirety of this collection, the things that are working and not working quickly rise to the surface via our Resonance Scores. And by looking at where the film’s similarities are to this collection, we can offer a view into how audiences would be expected to react to characters, dialogue, pacing, music and settings.

The upcoming film can be compared to an entire library or just a subset which are aimed at similar audiences.

And, as more movies come in, the library that is referenced becomes larger. And to break down a single film, compare its elements to a library of other films and determine what will or won’t resonate with an audience wouldn’t take more than an afternoon.

Traditional screen tests may be here to stay. And alternatives that continue to rely on humans and their reactions may have some success. But to really dive deep into the content, do it quickly and efficiently, and see clear answers to the questions you want answered, there is no better method than Resonance AI.

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