Box-Office Algorithm Predicts Revenue From Movie Screenplay

It seems like every summer, I go to see at least one horrible movie, which forces me to question the sanity of Hollywood. "How could they have thought that was going to do well?" Well, some business scholars want to take the guesswork out of the movie business. They're working on an algorithm that can (prest-o, change-o!) distill a screenplay's text into a box office tally.

Imagine a world where Hollywood producers could predict, with scientific precision, the box office revenue a movie will generate just by reading the screenplay. A new forecasting model devised by a trio of marketing professors from Wharton and NYU promises to deliver something like that. Among their findings: action movies with multidimensional conflicts are the most surefire investments, and horror films the riskiest.

Read the full story at Freakonomics at The New York Times.

The full paper is fascinating [pdf], mostly for the factoids. For example, they use a common natural language processing method called "bag-of-words." Here were the 30 most common words (all forms included) in their dataset of movie scripts. The f-word, man, dad, mom: those I can understand. But how about "corridor"? Then start thinking of all the movies in which someone walks/runs/fights down a corridor. (So many!) Note "chamber" and "tunnel" as well. It's like this study discovered a hidden truth about the way Hollywood architecture has to work.

30word.jpg

Presented by

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

"I'm exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in Technology

Just In