Can math predict the success of film?

That said, Rik, you drew a distinction between what people enjoy and what they would buy. But, if an algorithm can predict what people would enjoy, it would be a big step towards finding a more advanced version that would predict what people would buy.

I am not saying it's possible; I'm saying that your distinction, while important, MAY (emphasis may) not be an argument towards looking for an algorithm that can predict the success of movies. As of now, I'm also a skeptic, but I'll keep an open mind.
Well technically speaking, you can predict what people will buy. It just might not be accurate.

The issue is how many variables there are and the privacy of individuals and economic issues which would stop some of those variables from being collected and others being just too expensive to collect. On top of that, you'd need to predict things like major news, weather quite a distance in advance, new technology, competing factors... and hell, just to throw it in, each and every persons mood and financial situation. Its just too complicated to predict accurately.

If you're looking at a ballpark success numbers, yeah sure, there are still a lot of variables to take into consideration. I suppose you could design a "Greetings Professor Falken. Would you like to play a game?" type of computer, but wouldn't there be better uses for that, like predicting the stock market, crime or even terrorism? Hell, Skynet might even exist already for all we know.


Dammit. John Carter is not a bad movie.
You're right... It's worse ;( Of course there are worse movies out there, but for the budget, it... missed the mark on too many fronts. Its biggest hook was "Disney spent 240mil making this". I'm just pissed that I got conned into seeing it at the Cinema.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
I started this thread showing that, initially, Battleship beat Hunger Games.
In Blu-Ray sales only. And only the first week. It immediately
dropped below “Hunger Games” in its second week.

On its first week of DVD sales “Battleship” sold 371,411 units.
That week “Hunger Games” sold 510,664 and “The Lucky One”
sold 514,990 for the number one spot.

On its second week “Battleship” sold 160,748 units. That week
“Hunger Games” sold 297,682 units.

On its third week “Battleship” sold 72,301 units dropping to
number 13. That week “Hunger Games” sold 151,079 units
dropping to number 4.

On “Battleship” fourth week of release it dropped to 17 and sold
52,141 units. That week “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3” sold 300,659
units. Almost what “Battleship” sold on its first week. At no time
did “Battleship” sell more DVD’s than “Hunger Games”

It seems to me an overall look at what people buy is more accurate
then focusing on the macro to find what you want to find.

I am not saying it's possible; I'm saying that your distinction, while important, MAY (emphasis may) not be an argument towards looking for an algorithm that can predict the success of movies.
In the entire history of entertainment - not just movies but all
entertainment - producers have tried to find a set of numbers
that will predict the success of their product. It has never succeeded.
I suspect it never will. People (the buying public) are unpredictable.
Frightening to a producer - encouraging to a storyteller.

A producer can put everything people “enjoy” into a movie including
actors people love and the film can still fail to attract an audience.
Look at “The Last Action Hero” made in 1993. It had EVERYTHING
an algorithm would suggest meant success. What algorithm would
predict that a movie about a bobsled team from Jamaica would
attract more movie goers than an action film written by Shane Black,
directed by John McTiernan and starring Arnold would be out performed
by “Cool Runnings”?

Then a writer/director will make a movie every algorithm says no
one will enjoy and people flock to it on huge numbers. What
algorithm would say that faux documentary about a three students
looking into a witch story in Maryland would out gross that years
James Bond film by $13.3 million?

Anyway, it’s fun to think about and I hope you find that algorithm.
Perhaps you should drop the dream of being a producer and gather a
team to build this algorithm.
 
In the entire history of entertainment - not just movies but all
entertainment - producers have tried to find a set of numbers
that will predict the success of their product. It has never succeeded.
I suspect it never will. People (the buying public) are unpredictable.
Frightening to a producer - encouraging to a storyteller.
Why would this be encouraging to a storyteller? Because it gives him hope of beating the big studios?

In any case, I did say I'm a skeptic, so I won't be gathering a team - I just happen to know some people who are trying that, and I'm trying to help them along. I have warned them that it may be impossible, but they want to go ahead.

I will side with you, my quasi-mentor, because, as I said, I'm also a skeptic. But I will keep an open mind, because I would have said, a long time ago, Google search was impossible - though it was used by the good guys in "Galactica 1980".

"Last Action Hero" was awful, by the way.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Why would this be encouraging to a storyteller? Because it gives him hope of beating the big studios?
That's a producer's understanding. As a storyteller I am encouraged because I don't
have to generate a story based on a mathematical algorithm. I am not concerned
about beating the big studios. I can write a story an algorithm would tell a producer
will never make money and still have the potential of making money. It's hard
enough to get anything original produced - if there was a reliable algorithm that all
producers used originality would completely disappear.

"Last Action Hero" was awful, by the way.
Exactly my point. All the testing and research and audience polls suggested that in
1992 a movie written by the writer of "Lethal Weapon" (US gross $65,192,350) and
"The Last Boy Scout" (US gross $59,509,925), directed by the director of "Predator"
(US Gross $59,735,548), "Die Hard" (US Gross $81,350,242) and "The Hunt for Red
October" (US Gross $120,709,866) and the star of "Total Recall" (US Gross $119,394,839),
"Terminator 2" (US Gross $204,859,496) and "Kindergarten Cop" (US Gross $91,457,688)
would do well with audiences.

A mathematical algorithm would suggest that because people liked something in the
past they will like it in the future. No mathematical algorithm would suggest the movie
would be so bad even the people who like all the elements would stay away.

Even your question about what those algorithms would have said about John Carter or
Battleship beating Hunger Games in DVD sales would be flawed. Because it didn't happen.
Math cannot predict human taste or behavior. Netfilx, for example, will suddenly point me
toward "The Hunger Games" because I watched "Winters Bone" and "The Burning Plan".
What its award winning algorithm cannot know is I watched those movies because of
the story, not the actor. It was pure coincidence that Jennifer Lawrence was in both but
it makes a connection and figures I might like anything she is in. The logical math is
wrong.
 
As a storyteller I am encouraged because I don't have to generate a story based on a mathematical algorithm. I am not concerned about beating the big studios. I can write a story an algorithm would tell a producer will never make money and still have the potential of making money. It's hard enough to get anything original produced - if there was a reliable algorithm that all
producers used originality would completely disappear.
I'd agree with that. I think the story in "Last Action Hero" really killed it, not the actor, director, or scriptwriter - sometimes, people just tell lousy stories. But, if that's the case, then why have the prequels done so well?

There is, in fact, a series of mathematical reasoning which states that you can never truly have a complete mathematical system, and that some things just have to be taken on faith. There's a lot of work to be done in that area, and I think it is telling to show that we cannot reduce the universe to simple equations.
 
"Last Action Hero" was awful, by the way.
I read a bunch of bad reviews, so I waited until it hit the dollar theater. I had no expectations, so I really liked it. Arnold kills the assasin in the closet:

KID: "How did you know that guy was in there?"
ARNOLD: "There's always a guy in there."

I liked what it had to say about conventions used in Hollywood movies - how the girls looked, how every number was "555...", how action heroes didn't feel pain, etc. The big poster of Stallone, as the Terminator, was a hoot.
 
I also really liked Last Action Hero (though I haven't seen it since it came out). But I like deconstruction and self aware humor. As an action movie, it's probably pretty crappy, but as a FUNNY action movie, I was satisfied. I liked Hudson Hawk too.

My only point is no matter what you do, there's bound to be someone else out there who likes it. The trick then is a) being able to find those people and communicate what you have something they might enjoy and b) aiming at a target audience that can support the budget that you put into it.

There's even an audience for the Star Wars prequels!
 
What algorithm would
predict that a movie about a bobsled team from Jamaica would
attract more movie goers than an action film written by Shane Black,
directed by John McTiernan and starring Arnold would be out performed
by “Cool Runnings”?
I think this might be why:

Apr 13, 2012 – In 2011, of the ten movies that sold the most tickets, eight were rated PG-13.
http://www.studio360.org/2012/apr/13/pg-13-vs-r-whats-the-difference-really/

If you can't get to that last link... I can't either, and don't know why...

As a mother, I can tell you that my husband and I end up watching Kung Fu Panda and National Treasure WAYYYY more than we'd like to because they keep the kids entertained. We tend to buy movies that are action-packed and "clean" so that we can watch them as a family but not be bored to death. In my opinion movies that can entertain both the adult and the child will sell the best. Some rated R's might make it... but mostly PG and PG 13.

Eloquence
 
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