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These days, the Hollywood movie studio is a pretty well oiled machine. The process of making movies is familiar to pretty much everybody. One of the ways that studios try to make sure they're making the most successful movie possible is to have test screenings, but Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is no normal movie.
With test screenings, an early version of the film is shown to a small group, and then opinions are gathered from that group. The studio sees what they liked, what they didn't, and might invest in reshoots or another round of editing to fix some of the problems that have been perceived.
When Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters in a little less than three weeks it will make history as the final film in a saga that lasted over 40 years. However, it will also be a unique film in another way, as J.J. Abrams tells Esquire the movie has never had a test screening. The director says the movie has been seen, but never by a test audience...
Of course I’ve shown it at a friends and family screening, but we’ve never done like a test screening.
It's not entirely unheard of for major studio movies to go without test screenings, but it is rare. The most obvious reason that Disney and Lucasfilm may have skipped out on test screenings is in an attempt to prevent spoilers from leaking.
Test audiences sign non-disclosure agreements so that details of what they have seen don't make it out in public. Of course, that isn't always successful. We have heard now and then, about members of test audiences spilling the beans, though it's almost always anonymous, which makes verifying anything that is said difficult.
The downside of not having test screenings, of course, is that there's no opportunity to get the sort of feedback that could prove useful. Of course, the fact is that if everybody making the movie was confident in the script to begin with, there's no reason to led a random audience shake that confidence.
The upside of the lack of test screenings, is that it means any rumors we have heard about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that claim to have come from test screenings were apparently complete crap.
Considering that two years later a lot of people are still loudly badmouthing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, there certainly must be a lot of people curious how The Rise of Skywalker is going to go over. The movie will make money, that seems certain, but exactly how much is anybody's guess, and just what he response will be to the way the story ends is certainly going to be a big question mark right up until the world gets a chance to see it.
We'll all finally get that chance December 20.