Over the long weekend there was an interesting obituary in "The New York Times" of Joseph Farrell, a market researcher and film producer. You can read the whole obit here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/26/business/joseph-farrell-dies-at-76-used-market-research-to-shape-films.html?hpw
Farrell, who had been an executive at the research company Louis Harris is credited with making the movie "Fatal Attraction" a success. As originally shot by Adrian Lyne, the Glen Close character killed herself--conducting ritual suicide to the music of "Madame Butterfly."
Farrell researched the movie and concluded "this is a great movie until the end..." and "They didn’t want to see her [Close] do herself in...They wanted to see her done in.”
Adrian Lyne reshot the ending. "In the revision, Ms. Close’s character and her paramour, played by Michael Douglas, have a violent struggle in which she is nearly drowned in a bathtub and is finally dispatched by a gunshot fired by his wife (Anne Archer)."
The movie went on to gross more than $300 million worldwide.
Of course, attitudes about research and its effects on creativity vary--in both the film business and ours. The "Times" reports:
"Whether Mr. Farrell’s influence was positive or malign was debated. Ron Shelton, the director of “Bull Durham” and “White Man Can’t Jump,” complained to The Los Angeles Times in 1992 that Hollywood’s reliance on marketing “contributes to the lowest-common-denominator mentality and the proliferation of formulaic movies and genres.”