San Diego Gets 1st Look as Test Market for Films

Congratulations San Diegans, you’re average--or at least typical in the eyes of some movie company excecutives, who like to do research screenings in San Diego.

“The reason we test in San Diego is the demographics represent what most cities across the country are like,” said Leonie de Picciotto, vice president of publicity for the Samuel Goldwyn Company. “It has a good, average percentage of upper class, middle and low income people, women . . . a real cross section.”

This is not necessarily a great honor for San Diego. Goldwyn also tests in places like Columbus, Ohio; Fresno; and Columbia, South Carolina. But it often means San Diegans have the opportunity to see movies long before the rest of the world, even if it’s not always the version ultimately released to the masses.

Goldwyn recently tested “Mr. North” and “Mystic Pizza,” which is due to officially open Friday in San Diego. “Mr. North” was primarily tested to gauge the effectiveness of the advertising campaign. With “Mystic Pizza,” though, the producers were also looking at the audience’s response to the movie, with an eye toward making changes.


As it turned out, de Picciotto said the response to “Mystic Pizza” was favorable, so few changes were made in the movie. However, the ad campaign, which originally featured the silhouettes of three couples overlooking a bay, was changed to a group shot of the three couples hugging.

The original ad “didn’t give people enough information” about the movie, which is the story of three young girls and their boyfriends, de Picciotto said. “People weren’t sure what it was about.”

On the other hand, Goldwyn discovered the ads for “Mr. North” were effective. Only a line of copy was changed in order to give people more information.

“We found the ad worked,” de Picciotto said. “It was attracting the type of people who would like the movie.”


Such movie companies as Orion, Tri-Star and Warner Bros. also use San Diego for research screenings, but more often than not San Diego is chosen simply for convenience, or a desire to move the screening out of Los Angeles. Orion, for example, recently tested “Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels,” a new Steve Martin movie due out at Christmas, in San Diego.

“We didn’t want to do it in Los Angeles,” said Orion distribution president Joel Resnick. “Too many screenings are done in L.A. We do a lot in places like New York and Chicago, for no particular reason. A lot of times it’s done (in San Diego) for the convenience of the people involved.”

While Goldwyn opens up the test screenings to regular movie audiences by advertising them as “sneak previews,” Orion and others will often do “recruited screenings,” where only people representing certain demographics--for instance, college-age moviegoers--are invited.

KFMB-TV’s (Channel 8) deal with anchor Robin Swoboda is off. She will stay in Cleveland for now. Her reluctance to do the 11 p.m. newscast was reportedly a stumbling block. Meanwhile Channel 8 continues to search for a new anchor. Long-time anchor Allison Ross is still unsigned, and negotiations appear to be stalled. “I’m not sure whether things are progressing or not,” news director Jim Holtzman said. Ross could not be reached for comment . . .

Ross’ bio lists her spare time interests as “playing the drums and friendly conversation” . . .

Popular traffic reporter Susan DeVincent says she has turned down a job offer from Metro Traffic, the nationwide traffic report service setting up an operation in San Diego. She’ll stay with Airwatch Traffic, her employer for the last three years . . .

“Night Talk,” a new nightly local talk show, premieres at 8 p.m. tonight on KVSD-AM (1000). The show is being co-produced and hosted by Greg Jorgenson and Ken Leighton, a music columnist for the Coast Dispatch and the Times Advocate newspapers who also operates his own public relations company. Long-time North County Entertainer publisher Brian Cook was to serve as co-host, but he and Leighton had a falling out, a “difference in philosophies,” Leighton said. “If you call being misrepresented philosophical differences, than I agree,” Cook said . . .

Public relations guy John Brice spent more than a month trying to get Channel 8 weatherman Larry Mendte to use something from Rubio’s restaurant--one of his clients--on the air. Finally, last Thursday, Mendte used a surfboard Brice gave him as a pointer. But, to Brice’s frustration, Mendte removed the Rubio’s bumper stickers Brice had plastered across the board. Mendte did give the restaurant credit for the surfboard, though . . .


In his “Perspective” piece Thursday night, Channel 10’s Michael Tuck went after Sea World for its reluctance to talk to the media about any negative story. Sea World, Tuck suggested, expects to control the media by throwing parties and offering them free passes. The next day a letter was hand-delivered to Channel 10 from Sea World president Robert Gault. Tuck so misconstrued Sea World’s intent, Gault wrote, “Sea World will no longer furnish tickets to Channel 10 reporters and other staff members” . . .

At the luncheon honoring Channel 10 reporter Adrienne Alpert as San Diego State’s “Young Alumnus of the Year,” Mayor Maureen O’Connor, also a State alum, called Alpert the “best city hall reporter.” She also said she envied Alpert. “She’s always one step ahead of me in the sales lines,” O’Connor said. “She’s tough, but then she says, ‘Let’s go have a Coke and go to Nordstrom’s to check out the sales’.”