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What Did You Think Of The Movie? Hobbit Survey, Next Phase

12 February, 2012

So What Did You Think Of The Movie? International Hobbit Survey Moves Into Next Phase.

An international pre-release survey of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has thrown-up a variety of responses regarding people’s perceptions and expectations of the film.

A thousand people around the world participated in the survey and lead researcher Dr Carolyn Michelle from the Audience Research Unit at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, a short drive from Hobbiton, says the responses can be slotted into about eight distinct perspectives. “From the Lord of the Rings fans who couldn’t wait to see the new film to the J.R.R. Tolkien purists who thought he’d be turning in his grave.”

In New Zealand in particular there was a high number of what Dr Michelle calls “anxious investors” – not necessarily fans, but people worried that after a significant investment by the local film industry and even the government, The Hobbit might not be successful – but very much hoping it would be, and also very proud of New Zealand’s involvement in this film production.

An industrial dispute during filming nearly derailed the project until the New Zealand government agreed to introduce new employment legislation. “That controversial decision drew widespread criticism at the time and worried a small but significant number of our survey respondents. Some of them were very critical of the film’s director Peter Jackson.

“A considerable number of people were also concerned about the new technology being used, the higher-frame rate and how that would affect the viewing experience,” says Dr Michelle.

Now the film is out, the survey is moving into its next phase. A post-viewing questionnaire is now online.

Dr Michelle, with colleagues from the University of Waikato’s Screen and Media Studies programme and collaborators in Canada, the US, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark want to find out if people’s hopes were fulfilled and confirmed after seeing the movie, and how discussion, debate, marketing and promotion of a film shaped subsequent responses to it.

“We had responses from all over the world in the first phase, but mostly from countries where English is dominant, though we did get replies from Russia, Lithuania, Brazil, India, Finland, Japan and further afield. In the next phase, we plan to post the survey in Danish, Dutch, German and Spanish, to get an even broader response.”

She is also interested in looking for response patterns linked to identity and location. “So the wider the reach of the survey, the better the data. Here in New Zealand the making of The Hobbit has fuelled discussion on a range of issues; elsewhere in the world the response may be quite different."

The researchers say this study is the first large-scale international film reception study using Q methodology. Q methodology takes a quantitative and qualitative approach to create a conceptual map of people’s subjective responses. Survey participants are asked to rank a set of statements, rather than simply agree or disagree.


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