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From Reuters:

LONDON (Reuters) – Hollywood producers fretting over this year’s box office downturn should take heart.

A scientist in the United States says he has come up with a computer program that helps predict whether a film will be a hit or a miss at the box office long before it is even made.

“Our goal is to try to find oil in a way,” said Professor Ramesh Sharda of the Oklahoma State University on Wednesday.

“We are trying to forecast the success of a movie based on things that are decided before a movie has been made,” he told Reuters by telephone.


Sharda applied seven criteria to each movie: its rating by censors, competition from other films at the time of release, strength of the cast, genre, special effects, whether it is a sequel and the number of theatres it opens in.

Using a neural network to process the results, the films are placed in one of nine categories, ranging from “flop,” meaning less than $1 million at the box office, to “blockbuster,” meaning more than $200 million.

The results of the study showed that 37 percent of the time the network accurately predicted which category the film fell into, and 75 percent of the time was within one category of the correct answer.

As every producer knows, a decent script has nothing to do with it.


Written by [IMH]

15 December 2005 at 8:14 am

Posted in movies

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  1. Using my software, I predict the next “Harry Potter” movie will be a hit.

    What’s a “sleeper” except a film that would elude the professor’s software? We already know on common sense grounds what kinds of movies have a chance of being successful, of course including the small issue of the story. So the fact that some software that incorporates many of these factors would get make accurate predictions is not surprising. But it also sounds superfluous. What’s an original movie but a movie with elements that can’t possibly be taken into account by any such software? How is the software going to tell you about a movie with a similar theme unexpectedly released on the same date?

    What we need is a software that spares us the dates from hell, the bad marriages, the bad job interviews, the bad buying decisions, etc.–something that will allow us to always avoid thinking, research, and reflection on personal experience. It would be an artificial nano-intelligence that could replace our brains.

    David M. Brown

    15 December 2005 at 8:56 am

  2. I’ve come to terms with the fact that a decent script doesn’t mean nearly as much as it should in how much money a movie makes (see: Serenity). A movie that becomes a hit as a result of its script is likely to be a “sleeper”, as David described it.

    I think that, in the short run, a program like this might prove to be fairly effective for the motion picture industry, but in the long run, it would be counter-productive, as more and more people give up on movies altogether because of the lack of a good story.

    Robin S.

    15 December 2005 at 12:36 pm

  3. David: This is really a very old story, repeated. It’s the old saw about producers who want a magic formula for making a hit, without bothering with all that “good story” and “gripping idea” stuff. Or, as Tim Robbins’s character put it in The Player: “You’ve gotten rid of the writer. Now if we could just find a way to do without directors and actors, we might have something.”

    Robin: Serenity will be in the black before Christmas, don’t you worry; it will be a perennial bestseller on DVD. Its problem was a combination of things — it wasn’t “high concept”, it didn’t have an easily-communicated (25 words or less) premise; it was based on a failed TV series; Firefly‘s rabid fan following likely put off many people; plus, it looked like pure skiffy which, when done badly, which is how Hollywood does it, is just terrible (see Soldier).

    A good story with a high concept premise often does gangbusters at the box office. Die Hard and The Sixth Sense show that (and the twist helped TSS, but that wasn’t what pulled people into the theater at first).


    15 December 2005 at 2:10 pm

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