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Focus Group Ending

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"It's not the ending we wanted, but we also weren't making the movie for two people. We were making the movie for a lot of people."
Frank Oz discusses changing the ending of Little Shop of Horrors

Most movies are products to be sold to the public for the purpose of making a profit; at least, that's how studios see them. Therefore, studios are going to try to make their movies as appealing as possible to as broad an audience as possible.

Enter the focus group. In film, they are called test audiences. The studio calls together a group of random strangers from the target demographics, screens the film and monitors their reactions. If the test audience isn't happy, the studio asks them what would have made the film better and implements that. The actual creators may or may not be able to fight these changes. Sometimes the studio prepares multiple versions of a film for different test audiences, to see which one gets a better response.

Endings in particular are known to often be changed based on focus group feedback, probably because it's one of the most memorable parts of a movie (especially if you have to fill out a questionnaire right after watching.) You can either blame test audiences for ruining a lot of would-have-been-good movies, or praise them for improving a lot of would-have-been-crap movies. Probably both.

Subtrope of Revised Ending. See also Democracy Is Bad, Quality by Popular Vote and Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup.

Since this is an Ending Trope, expect spoilers.

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In-Universe examples:

  • Parodied in Robert Altman's The Player. One minor subplot features the main character taking a movie pitch from an Auteur screenwriter about a wrongfully accused woman dying in the gas chamber. The screenwriter insists "no stars, just talent" and emphasizes that he refuses to change the Downer Ending because "That's reality". By the end of the movie, not only are the leads in this film being played by Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts, but the downer ending has been completely changed. The Screenwriter's justification? Test audiences hated it.
  • The ending of My Name is Bruce cuts to Bruce Campbell sitting in the greenroom complaining about it being cliched. We then get a badly greenscreened ending where Bruce and Kelly are married and Jeff announces that he's been accepted to Harvard. After this ending Bruce asks "What could be better than that?" then gets attacked by Guan Di.
  • In Hail, Caesar!, Eddie Mannix is shown running the titular film past a group of clerics to make sure its depiction of Jesus doesn't offend anyone. None of them have any objections to the depiction, but they have questions over whether or not it's realistic for a character to jump from one speeding chariot to another.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied to the extreme in "Beyond Blunderdome" by having Mel Gibson take Homer's suggestions for his remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, in spite of everyone else in the focus screening giving praise, because Mel thinks Homer is the only person brave enough to give him honest criticism. Not surprisingly, the Homer'd up version doesn't do so well (though, in a deleted scene available on the Season 11 DVD set, Apu and his brother, Sanjay, tell Homer that extremely violent American action movies are popular in India and that they actually liked it).
    • "Natural Born Kissers" has Bart and Lisa go digging for buried treasure and uncover an film can containing a Happy Ending for Casablanca where Rick and Ilsa stay together. One of the retirement home residents says that he worked for the studio and they tried and failed to sell the happy ending. When Lisa says it should be in a museum, the old man offers her some money to rebury it — and the It's a Wonderful Life Killing Spree Ending.
    • And "The Old Man and the C Student" has the end of Gone with the Wind edited to appeal to seniors with the poorly dubbed: "Frankly my dear, I love you, let's remarry".
      Hans Moleman: Didn't that movie used to have a war in it?
  • The Critic:
    • Parodied in an episode where he reviews a remake of The Pride of the Yankees. After Lou Gehrig delivers his famous speech, he is approached by the Yankees coach. Apparently, he and the boys have developed "Lou Gehrig's oil" — curing him instantly. Not only that, but a paperboy appears to announce, "Great Depression over! And Bill Cosby born!", whose comedy Lou Gehrig says he will look forward to watching. When Jay attempts to set the record straight, his show is pre-empted.
    • Also parodied with Phillips' Vision, a means that Duke invents because "some artsy director ruins a classic movie with a Downer Ending." Duke intends to put it back "the way God intended" - allowing Spartacus to escape with his family and friend, and have Ilsa return to Rick at the end of Casablanca (with Sam there, too!).
    • Happens to Jay himself when he reconciles with his mother at the end of an episode of "Coming Attractions" after the two had a big falling out earlier. The audience complains that the ending isn't nice ENOUGH, and gives it a bad rating, forcing Duke to end the episode with a ridiculously extravagant spectacle. This only brings the ratings up a little.

Real Life examples:

    Films — Animation 
  • The Fox and the Hound originally had Chief die by getting run over by the train, just as he did in the novel. This would give Copper far more justification to want to kill Tod. But certain members of the crew had problems with the idea of killing off a main character, believing that it would be too intense for children.
  • Pocahontas lost its love duet "If I Never Knew You" (save for an end credits version) because kids found it too boring; it was later animated and reinserted into the film for its 10th anniversary DVD. Several critics felt it significantly improved the film. Ironically, "If I Never Knew You" was reinserted because so many Disney fans fell in love with it and called it one of Disney's very best love songs.
  • WALL•E: The scenes of the Earth recovering that appear during the credits were added after test audiences said that they didn't think the people on the spaceship would survive.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: Notably averted; the producers were concerned how audiences would react to the idea of Hiccup losing a foot in the battle against the Red Death dragon, but test audiences went up to them on their own account saying that they loved this powerful and daring twist for a family film and asked them to keep it.
  • Thomas and the Magic Railroad: Originally, there was a character called P.T. Boomer that served as the film's villian, but he wound up getting canned when kids in the test audience got bored during his scenes (or were terrified by him, depending on the source). Subsequently, Diesel 10 was created to act as his replacement, and while both villains have their followers, fans are generally unable to determine which of the two they like better.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Misery is a rare example of this trope making an ending harsher rather than softer. Focus groups were extremely unhappy with Paul walking normally at the end of the film, so the ending was re-shot with Paul needing a cane to walk.
  • I Am Legend massively changed the original ending, which was closer to Richard Matheson's novella. In the original ending, the protagonist has a Heel Realization. This twist was averted in the new ending into a Heroic Sacrifice, basically the exact opposite of what the novel did and what the rest of the film was building up to. Several plot details hinting at the original ending remain in the film.
  • The film adaptation of another Richard Matheson's novel, however, had it the other way around: the original novel's ending was restored due to this trope. Namely, in What Dreams May Come, the original film ending was the main character loses himself in his wife's personal hell, but test audiences didn't like it, so it was replaced with a more upbeat ending from the original novel where he saves her.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo: Villefort is in the wagon and about to go to prison for life. The guard tells him that the gun on the seat was placed there as a "courtesy for a gentleman." The original version had the gun loaded, and he kills himself. The focus group didn't like that, feeling that the gun should've been loaded with a blank and Villefort should've spent the rest of his life in that awful prison. The creators were taken aback, but they had the alternate take with the empty gun, so all it took was a simple substitution to make the movie better.
  • Blade Runner: The original theatrical release featured Deckard and Rachael driving a car to happiness and freedom through lush green hills. This ending is a jarring non sequitur: implausible and theme-negating in a dystopian future-noir film. It's the direct product of a test audience screening. Oddly, the sequence is unused footage from the start of The Shining.
  • Brazil: The omission of the original ending, in which Lowry's escape was revealed to be a delusion after he broke under torture.
  • The movie version of the musical Little Shop of Horrors originally retained the Downer Ending in which Audrey and Seymour are killed and Audrey II begins its spectacular conquest of Earth to the tune of the song "Don't Feed the Plants". This went over so badly with test audiences that much of the final section of the film — from Audrey II trying to eat her onward — was reshot and recut to change things to a happier ending; the original finale had to be jettisoned altogether, until the Blu-ray release, which included a "Director's Cut" containing the original ending.
  • Army of Darkness had its original ending (where Ash oversleeps after taking a sleeping potion and awakens in a post-apocalyptic future) changed after negative test audience reaction. A new ending was reshot and used for the theatrical release. Fortunately the new ending includes a whole additional action sequence and originates one of Ash's iconic catchphrases, "Hail to the king, baby!"
  • Fatal Attraction originally ended with Alex committing suicide and making it look like Dan (Michael Douglas) murdered her. American test audiences thought this wasn't a good enough punishment for the antagonist, so the ending was changed to Dan killing Alex by drowning her in the tub, but Alex doesn't stay dead — at least until Dan's wife shoots her. The original suicide ending has been shown in Japan.
  • Pretty in Pink orginally had Andie ending up with Blaine because test audiences favored the bad boy over the childhood friend—although cast members assert this happened because they complained that Duckie came off as too Ambiguously Gay. Some Kind of Wonderful, by the same writer and producers, came out the next year and essentially followed the original plot and ending with the genders reversed (and was arguably a better movie, though less popular).
  • Iranian film Taste of Cherry by Abbas Kiarostami ends with an idyllic scene featuring the production crew and some assorted others relaxing on a flowery hillside. It's lovely, but the footage seemed thrown in for no readily apparent reason. Test groups responded to it negatively and it was taken out of some theatrical runs, but restored for the DVD release. The director says he put it in there to remind us all that it's just a movie, and after the movie's depressing events he thought the audience deserved a break.
  • Dawn of the Dead (2004) had extra footage shot and interspersed with the credits after test audiences complained about the original abrupt ending.
  • Snake Eyes: Before the focus groups got their hands (er, eyes) on it, the film had a chase through a flooded tunnel and the bad guy getting run over by a globe which has been lying on the ground since the start of the movie. When it came to theaters, the chase doesn't go through a flooded tunnel (thus at odds with the reference to it in the epilogue), the globe gets washed away by a wave, and the bad guy kills himself.
  • Star Trek: Generations: Captain Kirk's trope-naming ignoble death was actually an improvement over him getting unceremoniously shot in the back.
  • In Deep Blue Sea, test audiences so despised the female scientist heroine (to the point of loudly screaming "Die, Bitch!" throughout the film), as well as the killing of LL Cool J's Bible-quoting parrot-avenging shark-burning chef, that the final ending was changed so that the Black Dude lives while the scientist lady gets munched on by a shark at the very end.
  • The silent film of The Phantom of the Opera (1925) originally had an ending more in line with the original novel (where Christine kisses Erik the Phantom on the forehead and he dies in peace). Test audiences weren't pleased. In the replacement ending, he's chased down by an angry mob and drowned.
  • The Saint (1997): Originally, Dr. Emma Russell was going to die, but the test screening didn't like it.
  • Originally Flight of the Intruder featured a court martial scene where Ed O'Neill played a JAG prosecutor. The test audience laughed at the sight of him and yelled "Al Bundy!". The scene had to be reshot with Fred Thompson playing the part.
  • The original ending of Final Destination featured a somewhat happy ending. The hero sleeps with his love interest, gets her pregnant, then dies. The movie closes on the 2 survivors standing by his grave a year later. Test audiences hated it and said they wanted more Rube Goldberg deathtraps. Ironically, Final Destination 2 revolved around that plot point, just with different players involved.
  • My Best Friend's Wedding originally ending with Julianne hooking up with a random guy at the wedding reception, which audiences complained was an Ass Pull happy ending, so instead the ending was changed so that her gay friend George appears at the reception instead to comfort her.
  • The original ending to the film of 1408 featured the main character dying and becoming a ghost. The writers continue to consider this the "true" ending and restored it for the DVD release. Nevertheless, the revised ending is also more true to the original story.
  • Jaws: The Revenge: The original theatrical ending had Jake be eaten by the shark and the shark killed by impalement on the boat's prow. However, test audiences were very disturbed by Jake's death, so he (somehow) survives. They also changed the shark's death to massively exploding for no reason whatsoever when it's impaled. The former is ridiculous, but Word of God has it that while the studio demanded changes, they didn't give the production enough money to re-shoot. (The original intent was the shark to be impaled, die and sink - taking much of the boat with it.)
  • The Fly (1986) had FOUR different epilogues shot and tested, all involving a Dream Sequence in which a human baby with butterfly wings emerges from a chrysalis as a counterpart to the maggot baby Nightmare Sequence. They were: 1) Veronica and Stathis are a couple again and she's carrying his child rather than Seth's (this is the epilogue in the shooting script), 2) Veronica and Stathis are a couple but she is not pregnant, 3) Veronica is single and not pregnant, 4) Veronica is single and visibly pregnant, meaning she's keeping Seth's child. NONE of them went over well. As the retrospective documentary Fear of the Flesh discusses, the stop-motion work on the "butterfly baby" wasn't of a piece with the film's other effects, and even the cast and crew didn't want endings 1 or 2 because they cheapened the love Seth and Veronica shared. But the ultimate reason the movie ends where it does, according to David Cronenberg, was because test audiences were so devastated by Seth's death that they weren't in the mood for a hopeful epilogue immediately afterward.
  • Sweet Home Alabama originally had an ending that extended the Meaningful Echo of Melanie and Jake's kiss in the middle of the thunderstorm and had them zapped by lightning again. Cut to everyone waiting in Stella's bar, where Jake, cradling a limp Melanie in his arms, walks in and announces, "Melanie Carmichael is dead." We see the news start to sink in among the community, including Melanie's parents, before Jake adds, "Long live 'Felony Melanie!'" Melanie then drops the act, and everyone cheers for the happy couple and the rebirth of their hometown sweetheart. Test audiences cried, "Dude, Not Funny!," and the ending changed to have the couple playfully handcuffed together and escorted into the bar by their sheriff friend.
  • Contemporary reviews indicate that the original ending to Downstairs had Alfred the good-guy butler drowning the evil chauffeur Karl in a vat of wine. Apparently exhibitors hated this ending, so MGM shot a different ending in which Alfred throws Karl out of the mansion but Karl goes on to continue his evil ways. The revised ending is the only one that survives.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The original ending to the film had Scott ending up with Knives as Ramona left on her own. After exposing it to test audiences, the ending was changed to its current form. Edgar Wright, Bryan Lee O'Malley, and most of the actors have all testified to being more satisfied with the new ending. Additionally, when the film script was being written, the last volume of the graphic novel hadn't been finished yet. When Bryan Lee O'Malley, the original writer, decided to have a happier ending than he originally planned, they also changed the film's ending to match.
  • According to Lillian Gish's memoir, D. W. Griffith may be the Trope Codifier. She wrote that he went on the road and spoke to audiences when Intolerance made its premiere in several cities. He then took notes on which scenes got tepid responses and edited them out before going on to the next city. That's why the Babylonian and modern stories are longer than the Jesus and Huguenot sections. (All four stories were originally roughly the same length.) In 1919, he released a new movie fashioned out of all the footage from the Babylon section with newly shot scenes that give the Mountain Girl a happier ending.
  • The original ending for Eve's Bayou (and the one used for the Director's Edition) left ambiguous who started the infamous kiss between Louis and his daughter Cecily. When test audiences disliked this, the ending was changed to reveal a more definitive version of events.
  • Dark City: Test screening audiences were "troubled" by the notion that the entire city wasn't sucked out into space once the Shell City Wall was breached. Thus, a last minute SFX addition of Bumstead and a Stranger drifting through a force field was created.
  • Bad test audience reactions more or less shaped Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy into an entirely different movie. Originally, the film centered around a group of bank robbers calling themselves 'the Alarm Clock' — yes, the footage that became the direct-to-video film Wake Up, Ron Burgundy! When this story failed to strike a chord with audiences, all references to the Alarm Clock were removed, and a sizeable chunk of the film was reshot to include the familiar panda subplot. Also, Baxter (initially a large, masculine dog) became little, fuzzy and cute, adding another memorable element to the film.
  • In the original ending of Freddy vs. Jason: after Freddy and Jason are defeated, Lori and Will are back at her home making love for the first time. Will becomes violent in the middle of it, and then grows blades out of his fingers. Lori screams as he slashes her to death. The test audiences thought the acting in the scene was terrible, and were confused about what it meant, asking questions like "Does this mean Freddy won? Where's Jason? Is this a dream? Is Will turning evil and is now some sort of Son-of-Freddy?" It was then replaced with the current ending, where Jason walks out of the water holding Freddy's decapitated head, and Freddy winking at the audience.
  • Tremors originally ended with Val and Rhonda saying awkward goodbyes to each other and Val driving away, only for his friend Earl to change Val's mind halfway through and turn back for the girl after all. Cue credits. The test audience however started chanting "Kiss Her!" during the awkward goodbye scene and so a new ending was shot, with The Big Damn Kiss and a Relationship Upgrade while credits start to roll. Definitely an improvement over the original, which can be seen on the DVD.
  • National Treasure had its ending changed due to test audiences, but not because they didn't like it: it was originally an And the Adventure Continues ending, and audiences mistook it for a Sequel Hook.
  • Argo was criticized in its first airing at the Toronto International Film Festival for downplaying the role of Canadian diplomats during the hostage crisis and in its original postscript claiming that Canada's diplomat Ken Taylor took the credit for diplomatic purposes. After this initial wave, Ben Affleck called in the actual Ken Taylor to write the replacement postscript, which complimented the effort of the Canadians.
  • The original ending of Layer Cake, the ending Sony Pictures wanted Matthew Vaughn to use, shows the protagonist driving off into the sunset with his new girlfriend. The director secretly recorded the alternate ending, showing the protagonist being shot by Sidney to the screening audience and ended up using it based on popular vote, stating "It was not like other American movie endings".
  • Happy Death Day had Tree figure out who her killer is and get rid of them, finally breaking the loop she was stuck in. The original ending then had Mrs Butler, the wife of the professor Tree had an affair with, killing Tree, and this either killing Tree for real this time or starting a new loop. Test audiences hated this ending because it ruined the happy feeling of success. That part of the ending was removed, and Tree was allowed to keep living and have a scene with Carter in a café.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day had a Distant Finale coda showing Judgment Day had been prevented. Even if the producers had disapproved it, James Cameron only decided to cut it once test audiences reacted badly as well, instead finishing on a more open ending that also didn't have a vastly different tone from the rest of the movie.
  • Terminator Salvation originally ended with John Connor dying, and his corpse was skinned and placed over Marcus so that Marcus would impersonate him from then on. Test audiences hated it. The "heart transplant" ending saving his life was a quickly filmed Author's Saving Throw re-shot to change the ending into one that audiences would accept.
  • The film adaptation of RENT cut its original ending, in which the metaphor of the characters singing their lives together onstage was revisited. Focus groups shot that one down, as the reappearance of a certain beloved dead character apparently gave the impression that the whole movie had been a dream. Instead we're treated to a rousing climax of the entire cast sitting on a sofa trying not to cry. The original ending survives here.
  • Major League originally ended with the Indians' owner revealing that her attempt to move the team and general obnoxious behavior had all been a ploy to motivate the team to win. That ending was cut because test audiences preferred her as a villain.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan had test audiences negatively react to Spock's Deader than Dead status in the original theatrical cut, so Harve Bennett added the shot of the mind-meld (with a voice-over by Leonard Nimoy saying "Remember") and the long tracking shot of the Genesis planet that reveals Spock's casket resting intact on the surface, along with some serious Orchestral Bombing by James Horner.
  • The original cut of Clerks shown to film festival audiences included a scene at the end in which Dante is shot and killed by a robber. Audiences, including a couple of Kevin Smith's personal mentors whose opinion he greatly respected, found it too depressing, so it was cut. Smith has since come around and agrees that the film is better without it, although the original cut is available on the "Clerks X" special-edition DVD so that audiences can judge for themselves.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thor: The Dark World: Loki was supposed to have a permanent death in the film. The actors played the death scene believing it was final, but after the audience refused to accept it at the test screenings, it was turned into yet another of Loki's tricks, and the last frame of the film is Loki sitting on the throne of Asgard. The film crew also shot two extra scenes — Loki's trial and shapeshifting after being released.
    • Not an ending, but a cameo from Tom Hiddleston as Loki was cut from Avengers: Age of Ultron, after test audiences found it too confusing and thought that it meant that Loki was somehow important to the plot.
    • Katherine Langford's role as an adult Morgan Stark got cut out of Avengers: Endgame because test audiences found her scene too confusing and too similar to the end of Avengers: Infinity War.
  • The theatrical version of Disturbing Behavior ended on a cliffhanger revealing that Gavin, one of the brainwashed Blue Ribbon kids, had survived and is now working as a student teacher at an Inner City School, where it's implied that he will restart the Blue Ribbon program. The original ending, which was deemed by test audiences as too depressing, had Gavin take his former friends hostage on the ferry as they try to escape. They shoot him in self-defense, which breaks him out of his brainwashing before he dies. This was just one of many edits imposed on the film, to the point where the director almost had his name taken off of the credits as a result.
  • The original version of Lights Out (2016) was about 10 minutes longer but was cut out due to negative audience reaction. In both versions, Sophie kills herself to sever Diana's only link to the physical world, but in the extended ending it didn't actually work so her family had to put Diana down another way. Focus groups rejected it as it made the suicide feel pointless, though with the unfortunate side effect of the new ending appearing to advocate people with depression killing themselves. Sandberg was so disturbed by this he promptly set out making a sequel to undo the Unfortunate Implications.
  • The 1939 version of Wuthering Heights was originally going to end with a shot of Heathcliff's corpse in the snow, but at producer Samuel Goldwyn's insistence, this ending was replaced with a romantic shot of Heathcliff and Cathy's spirits wandering the moors together. By the time the new ending was filmed, Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon had both moved on to other projects, so stand-ins took their place, which explains why the two ghosts are only seen from behind.
  • Merlin was supposed to survive Kingsman: The Golden Circle, but test audiences felt that it would cheapen his Heroic Sacrifice if he did.
  • The Princess Diaries was to end with Mia simply agreeing to fly to Genovia, but Garry Marshall's granddaughter wanted to actually see the castle. So Disney bought stock footage of a European castle with the Genovia flag added in.
  • The original ending for Blade (1998) had Deacon Frost turn into an Eldritch Abomination made from blood but the test audiences found him hard to relate to and they couldn't get the special effects right.
  • 28 Days Later originally had Selena and Hannah failing to save Jim in a hospital and then ended with the two women walking out alone. UK test audiences found it too bleak and thought Hannah and Selena were certain to be killed soon. Interestingly, this ending was added to the theatrical cut in 2003 as a Post-Credits Scene.
    • Weirdly the American test audiences hated the happy ending and it was released in the U.S. with the ending where Jim dies.
  • Super Mario Bros. (1993) had a focus group beginning, as test audiences weren't getting the concept of the parallel dimensions, so a pixelated intro was made in postproduction to spell it out.
  • Romeo Must Die: A persistent rumor that dogs the film is that the reason there's no Big Damn Kiss between Han and Trish is because test audiences responded poorly to an interracial romance. This is not the case. What audiences responded poorly to was the Mood Whiplash of Han making out with his girlfriend right after his father killed himself, thus the ending was changed to them simply hugging and walking away holding hands.
  • First Blood originally ended with Rambo begging Col. Trautman to kill him, which he obliges (similar to how the book ended). This was changed when test audiences found it too depressing.
  • Meet John Doe: Capra filmed and road-tested four endings to the film, including one in which Norton has a Heel–Face Turn and one, arguably the dramatically necessary one, where John follows through and jumps off the roof. After receiving a letter from a test viewer saying that the John Does themselves should save John, Capra filmed and released that. In his autobiography he continued to express dissatisfaction with the ending.
  • 54: A dramatic film about Studio 54. Nearly the entire movie was re-done by the studio because test audiences reacted negatively to the lead character's bisexuality, saying it made him "unlikeable". They also reacted negatively to a kiss between the male leads. The studio in response, cut out 40 minutes of the film and reshot new scenes to remove these themes. The test audiences also hated that the lead characters got a happy ending. Thankfully, in 2015 a director's cut was released which restored the original ending, and put back the cut 40 minutes while removing the reshoots.
  • The 2004 adaptation of The Stepford Wives initially followed the Downer Ending of the book and first film, but test audiences didn't like it and it clashed with the otherwise Lighter and Softer tone of the movie. As a result, the "kill and replace with robots" plot was changed to mind-control implants and the victims rescued at the end.
  • The 1956 film adaptation of 1984 was initially shot with two endings; a Downer Ending that was faithful to the book note  and a Bittersweet Ending that shows the spirit of human defiance note . The reason for this was it was an American co-production and it was feared American audiences wouldn't appreciate an ending as bleak as the book's. Then to the surprise of everyone the opposite turned out to be true; American focus groups preferred the unaltered ending, while British ones liked the bittersweet finish. The UK distribution wound up going with the defiant-to-the-end cut, leading to very negative reviews by critics and a lackluster box office return. The latter was helped along by George Orwell's widow Sonia boycotting the film for the change in ending.
    "The producer said "I know it's got an unhappy ending but I have a belief in human nature." And I said "Well, your belief does you credit but you've simply missed the point.""

    Live-Action TV 
  • When the pilot for Justified was shown to focus groups, they loved the character of Boyd Crowder as portrayed by Walton Goggins and hated that he is killed at the end of the episode. Despite the fact that they tried to be very faithful to the Elmore Leonard short story the show is based on, a decision was made to reshoot the ending of the pilot and keep the character alive. The complicated relationship between the show's hero Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder then became the keystone of the show and was responsible for much of its popularity and critical acclaim.
  • Inverted on ER, which got a focus group beginning. The pilot episode was to feature Nurse Carol Hathaway committing suicide via a drug overdose. However, test audiences liked her character and were intrigued by the relationship hinted at between her and Dr. Doug Ross. As a result, Carol miraculously recovered and became one of the show's best known heroines.
  • The Big Bang Theory is another inversion. The un-aired pilot featured the character of Katie moving in with the main characters and taking the role of being Leonard's love interest. Test audiences really liked Leonard and Sheldon, but hated Katie because she was a Hard-Drinking Party Girl, mean-spirited and ungrateful to Leonard and Sheldon's hospitality. A second pilot was made, forcing the writers to completely retool the character into the Girl Next Door Penny, who had a few similar traits to Katie but was overall much warmer and sweeter.
  • The 1970s game show Jackpot got Screwed by the Network thanks to this — then-head of NBC daytime Lin Bolen decided to test the show with the then-new focus group concept. The reaction was "We don't like riddles." despite that being the whole point of the show. Even worse, Bolen listened to them, threatening to fire host Geoff Edwards if he didn't cooperate and to cancel the show if producer Bob Stewart didn't make changes. The result was basically a neutered show with little to no excitement, which wound up getting cancelled in September of 1975 (after both the format change and a timeslot change that saw 5 minutes shaved off due to a midday news bulletin NBC ran at the time).

  • For an after-the-fact non-movie version, look at A Chorus Line. The original ending featured Cassie not getting the part because she was over-qualified. This more realistic version was jettisoned a few weeks into the run in exchange for a happier ending; ticket sales increased dramatically.
  • Ayn Rand's play The Night of January 16th, deliberately employs an unusual variant of this trope by having the jury in the play empaneled from members of the audience. It's written with two different endings for both verdicts; they both express a value judgement of the jury.
  • The Broadway Retool of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory originally ended with a reprise of "Strike That! Reverse It!" that reunited Charlie with his family and revealed that all of the Bratty Kids had been restored to normal, whereupon Charlie gave each of them an appropriate job (Violet would handle marketing, Augustus would be a taster, etc.). This was eliminated in the preview period and substituted with a short dialogue between Charlie and Willy Wonka that established that the family was already inside the factory, whereupon they both went in together. This change makes the ending substantially darker, as it leaves Veruca Killed Off for Real, Augustus and Violet facing Uncertain Doom, and Mike permanently shrunk.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons episode "Burns' Heir" originally had a scene where Homer, after trying to convince Bart to come home, is driven away from Burns' mansion by a "Robotic Richard Simmons" that plays KC and the Sunshine Band's "Shake Your Booty." (Simmons was "dying to do the show", but declined when he found out he'd be voicing a robot.) It was cut because it often didn't get good reactions at table reads, and it was felt to be "well trod territory" and distracted from the story. (There were disagreements as to whether they should joke about Simmons.) To their surprise, the scene caused audiences at conventions and colleges to erupt with laughter, so they put in the "138th Episode Spectacular" and Season 5 DVD.
    Smithers: His ass is gonna blow!!
  • The ending to Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama has Kim kick Shego into a radio tower. Shego somehow survives being knocked into a radio tower and having it fall on her, but the fact that she survived was not readily apparent to the test audience, who loathed the idea of killing off the Breakout Character. The ending was partially changed to have Shego appear in the police paddywagon getting arrested, assuaging concerns that Kim had killed Shego.