I should have paid attention to last Wednesday’s news that Joe Farrell, former chairman-CEO of the National Research Group, died at age 76. NRG, which started in 1978, invented a new vocabulary when it came to advanced, in-depth, early-warning movie marketing. NRG introduced the concept of research screenings, tracking (I’ve heard the phrase “it’s not tracking” for the last 20 or 25 years), and the notion of audience quadrants (the first time I heard the term “all four quadrants” was in 1982 regarding The Pirates of Penzance).
Farrell, whom I never once saw in person, was absolutely a major player. Yes, it’s been said that research audience data has occasionally led to studios pressuring directors and producers to edit out the slower stuff, perhaps to the detriment of the film. And yes, there are those who’ve whispered (but never proved to my knowledge) that Farrell would occasionally “cook” his data to make it appear as if the studio guys knew what they were doing when they greenlighted this or that movie, and that if the movie tanked it was the fault of marketing and not concept. Something to look into another day.
But for now a moment of silence for a guy who really changed this town, for better or worse.