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Big data as a predictor for box office success

It's one of the great mysteries that movie studios face: how well will their next release do in the box office? To date, the answer to that question has been a lot of guesswork, and "gut checks". But with the advent of social media sites, as well as big data analytics, for the first time, studios have a way to measure sentiment by accessing multiple big data sources.

On June 10th, ABC's Nightline aired a segment on Hollywood's big blockbuster summer. And, perhaps more interestingly, how big data could be used to predict which movies might be hits. Part of that segment involved an interview with USC's Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism's Prof. Jonathan Taplan to examine how big data could be used to predict how well a studio's movie might fare at the box office.

BigSheets on the iPad™

BigSheets running on an iPad from ABC's Nightline, (C) ABC News

How it was done

jStart teamed up with Professor Taplan to examine how social media data feeds could be analyzed in order to better understand public sentiment. Initially the idea was to track social movements using social media tools (such as tracking sentiment within various countries during the Arab Spring movement in 2011). Dr. Taplan, using an IBM grant, engaged jStart to help him and his team to leverage BigSheets to capture to social media data, and then aid the researchers in analyzing it. One of the strengths of BigSheets is to enable line-of-business individuals (or in this case, professors and graduate students) to easily slice and dice the data in order to gain insight.

What they're saying...

ABC Nightline Video Link

The Box Office: a natural fit

Being in the heart of Hollywood country, challenges that industry faces are familiar with the faculty and students at USC. So applying BigSheet's capabilities to the industry seemed like a natural fit. What was one of the biggest challenges movie studios faced? Understanding the sentiment of the market to their offering--before the offering was in the box office. The ability to understand how the public is perceiving a specific movie could go a long way towards informing the studio as to the efficacy of it's marketing efforts, as well as the ability to better encourage interest. It, of course, could also give studios additional insights to help inform go/no-go decisions on everything from the breadth of distribution to whether it made sense to invest additional marketing muscle to push a movie over the public's awareness tipping point.

A working prototype--and on-going efforts

The Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism and jStart completed the prototype in only one month. Leveraging jStart's expertise with big data technologies, and marrying that to Annenberg's creativity, the team came up with a tool that is instantly understandable, and instantly valuable to a key industry. Other collaborations between the two teams continue, with additional applications of IBM big data technologies being developed. Interested in learning more? Contact us today.

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