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Hollywood market research evolves to reflect tech-savvy moviegoers

To ensure strong box-office results, Hollywood studios are scrambling to adapt their market research methods to the changing habits of the tech-savvy moviegoer.

March 04, 2013|By Laura J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times

Bruzzese is considering using an online survey that resembles a video game to learn the preferences of potential moviegoers and keep them engaged.

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Industry research dates to the 1930s, when studio executives traveled to screenings as far away as San Diego and San Bernardino to pass out evaluation forms they referred to as "idiot cards" — rudimentary questionnaires that asked audiences whether they liked the movie and what, if anything, they would change.

Paura began her research career in the 1970s working for Farrell at the Harris Poll in Washington, D.C. In 1978, Farrell and Paura, then 28, moved to Los Angeles to found NRG in Hollywood and began assembling a database of opinions from moviegoers and reactions to promotional materials, all neatly indexed in green-jacketed books.

By the 1980s, NRG obtained a virtual monopoly on movie-tracking research and grew into an $80-million global enterprise, Paura said. Today, NRG remains Hollywood's dominant research firm.

Although her methodologies are changing at Capstone, Paura's central mission remains the same.

"The secret is to try and get under the hood of the data and ask, what is this research telling me?" she said. "And sometimes, we won't know for sure. It's always evolving."


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