A film screening
is the displaying of a motion picture or film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...
, generally referring to a special showing as part of a film's production and release cycle. To show the film to best advantage, special screenings may take place in plush, low seat-count theaters with very high quality (sometimes especially certified) projection and sound equipment, and can be accompanied by food and drink and spoken remarks by producers, writers, or actors. Special screenings typically occur outside normal theatrical showing hours.
The different types of screenings are presented here in their order within a film's development.
For early edits of a film, informal test screening
A test screening is a preview screening of a movie or television show before its general release in order to gauge audience reaction. Preview audiences are selected from a cross-section of the population, and are usually asked to complete a questionnaire or provide feedback in some form. Harold...
s are shown to small target audiences to judge if a film will require editing, reshooting or rewriting. At this stage the film may be incomplete, with missing or unfinished special effects shots or sound effects, or dialogue not yet rerecorded. Audience responses are usually recorded informally. Test audiences may be required not to discuss the film. A film may go through several test screenings.
Focus group screening
A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging...
screenings are formal test screenings of a film with very detailed documentation of audience responses. Target audience members answer survey questionnaires and are usually interviewed, sometimes on video. Group discussions following a film with 25-30 viewers are common. Focus audiences may be required not to discuss the film. Their opinion may be recorded by pressing buttons during screening to indicate approval or disapproval. Viewers' faces may be videotaped during the screening. Their involuntary responses may be recorded using galvanic skin response
Skin conductance, also known as galvanic skin response , electrodermal response , psychogalvanic reflex , skin conductance response or skin conductance level , is a method of measuring the electrical conductance of the skin, which varies with its moisture level...
, EKG, or fMRI. Focus group screenings are expensive to run due to the equipment required and large amount of data recorded, so are performed less frequently than informal test screenings. Fully equipped permanent focus-group screening rooms simplify the process, but restrict the location of tests.
Critic (or "press") screenings are held for national and major market critics well in advance of print and television production-cycle deadlines, and are usually by invitation only. This step may be omitted if a studio anticipates negative critical reviews, or if a film is still being edited until immediately before release.
Private preview screenings are commonly provided for investors, marketing and distribution representatives, and VIP media figures. While distribution of the film is being sought, such screenings can occur during film festival
A film festival is an organised, extended presentation of films in one or more movie theaters or screening venues, usually in a single locality. More and more often film festivals show part of their films to the public by adding outdoor movie screenings...
s, film markets or indeed anytime.
Public preview screenings can occur at boutique theaters (which may not be scheduled as a release theater). These may serve as final test screenings used to adjust marketing strategy (radio & TV promotion, etc.) or the film itself. Complimentary tickets, sometimes limited in number, are frequently provided to local media for contests or giveaways. Viewers may be recruited and "prequalified" with a series of questions to determine if they fit the film's target audience. No confidentiality requirement is imposed on the audience.
A sneak preview is an unannounced film screening before formal release, generally with the usual charge for admission. Sneak previews were created in the 1930s to help determine "success and failure factors" of a film, while modern sneak previews provide additional publicity and word-of-mouth exposure for the movie. A sneak preview of a film with bad (or no) prior publicity may be quite poorly received; a by-invitation sneak preview of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American war film set during the Vietnam War, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The central character is US Army special operations officer Captain Benjamin L. Willard , of MACV-SOG, an assassin sent to kill the renegade and presumed insane Special Forces...
was dismissed by attendees as "boring," though it went on to win the Cannes Palme d'Or
The Palme d'Or is the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival and is presented to the director of the best feature film of the official competition. It was introduced in 1955 by the organising committee. From 1939 to 1954, the highest prize was the Grand Prix du Festival International du...
and two nominations for best picture.
After a combination of or all the above, the film goes on general release if taken up by a film distributor
A film distributor is a company or individual responsible for releasing films to the public either theatrically or for home viewing...