By LAWRENCE FRENCH
Robert Wise sent this detailed report to Welles about the audience reaction at the first two previews of the film. In retrospect, it seems rather incredible that RKO executives would take only two previews as the final word on how AMBERSONS would be received by audiences nationwide. While the majority of the comments in Pomona were unfavorable, the people who did like it thought it was a brilliant picture! Today, it seems incredibly foolish to have based the wholesale cutting of the film on such a limited response. Just imagine what might have happened if only the film had been previewed in a more upscale market, such as New York or San Francisco, where AMBERSONS opened to good box office returns, or if, like CITIZEN KANE, it hadn't been previewed at all!
ROBERT WISE TO ORSON WELLES:
March 31, 1942
You asked for a detailed report of preview audience reactions and I have never tackled a more difficult chore. (more...)