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How Predictive Analytics Is Changing Hollywood



This post is sponsored by SAP.

Hollywood film executives often wrestle with the decision of whether or not to back a film with blockbuster potential. It may seem promising if hot directors love the script and major stars are interested in it, too. But in Hollywood, there are no guarantees. That project you're thinking of green lighting could wind up being a hit — or it could be a career-destroying flop.

With films often costing $150 million and up, film studios need a better way than gut feelings to ensure they get their money back. Just look at last year's "John Carter" (which lost some $200 million for its investors) and it's easy to understand why. That's the reason many producers are moving beyond intuition and focus-group research and starting to turn to predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics identifies patterns in past data. For example, if a proposed script is a raucous comedy about a wedding aboard a cruise ship, the data process can take into account information on how well recent comedies have done, while adding in box office receipts for previous wedding films. Programmers would also include information on movies that took place aboard cruise ships, along with the track records of the potential stars and the director. The more data that's added, the more accurate the predictions will be. Analysts may even include data taken from user comments on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.

So-called script evaluators can also suggest changes to a script, such as that cruise ship comedy not including a scene set in a bowling alley — movies with bowling alley scenes tend not to do well, script evaluator Vinny Bruzzese told the New York Times. Entire characters can also be rewritten to reflect the latest data. Are vampires still a good bet? Look to predictive analytics to find out.

Ultimately, predictive analytics can give filmmakers the ability to make smarter decisions and have a better idea of how much money their films will make well before they're released. That could mean fewer bombs and more films that audiences would actually want to see.

In the meantime, though, we may still have to slog through long Saturday nights watching films that should never have been made.

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