In 1982 I stood in line with more than 700 movie goers for an advance screening of a “secret” film months before it’s release.
I learned later that Dallas, Texas was the center of the “test market” screening universe because it represented middle America, and was far away from Hollywood.
Directors like Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott, to name a few, would sneak into Dallas with their marketing department, hand out slips of paper, and ask for comments following a viewing of their latest film. Those North Texas reactions would sometimes lead to re-editing or changes in the films ending.
On this particular night I was giddy because I was standing in line with the late, Phillip Wuntch, Film Critic for the Dallas Morning News and a seamless, accomplished writer. Phillip was one of my cinematic champions.
Before I could say, “Replicant,” the line started buzzing and moving quickly through the doors of the North Park Cinema 1 & 2 and that’s when it happened.
Sitting in the last row hiding under baseball hats I made eye contact with director Ridley Scott and actor Harrison Ford while simultaneously being handed a slip of paper and a pencil to record my reactions to, “Blade Runner.”
No one else noticed the famous director and actor in the last row except me, and I was determined to take my job as a “test market” viewer as seriously as possible.
To this day I refer to the original, “Blade Runner,” as a cinematic masterpiece and a game changer, but on that night I was out of touch and star struck to the point I remember writing this comment on the slip of paper and handing it to the studio reps.
“What’s wrong with Harrison Ford in this movie? He never smiles. This movie is too sad and melancholy and could use a good dose of “fun.”
Good Lord, what was I thinking? I was wrong back then and have used that as an early example of getting it wrong the first time and admitting the mistake later. It happens once or twice a year.
Months later when “Blade Runner” arrived in theaters the ending had changed and there was Harrison Ford in a car driving away, smiling ever so slightly.