Bum Barometer: David Mamet has a go at audience research in the cinema. Even though I have to stifle a cynical cackle at the thought of punters going all sensible and objective when confronted with a questionnaire, I think he has some good points. The knockabout thumbs-up/thumbs-down model of film criticism has a lot to answer for, and he’s right that people like the idea of being an adjudicator: it’s because they all would like to be Ebert (or Jonathan Ross in the UK’s case). And despite having a professional interest in market research I absolutely agree that people should trust their intuition more, and not just in ‘creative’ disciplines: the amount of researcher time wasted on plainly wretched products which would have been nixed at birth if anyone in the company had displayed a hint of balls… sorry. Rant off.

I think there is a place for quantitative audience research in commercial film-making but it’s only really useful for very basic questions like “Was the film too long?”. Mamet’s chosen alternative raises a smile, though – watching the audience from the back of the cinema. This kind of ethnographic consumer research is one of the hottest things in the research industry at the moment (like most hot research things, it is also very easy to fudge) – the same people handing out the despised cards at the end of the film are also doing exactly what Mamet recommends, and getting rich off it. We’ll make a marketer of you yet, David!