Doing the math ‘predicts’ which movies will be box office hits

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Posted August 23, 2013
Doing the math 'predicts' which movies will be box office hits

Doing the math ‘predicts’ which movies will be box office hits
Researchers systematically charted the online buzz around certain films. Credit: Shutterstock

Researchers have devised a mathematical model which can be used to predict whether films will become blockbusters or flops at the box office – up to a month before the movie is released.

Their model is based on an analysis of the activity on Wikipedia pages about American films released in 2009 and 2010. They examined 312 movies, taking into account the number of page views for the movie’s article, the number of human editors contributing to the article, the number of edits made and the diversity of online users.

The researchers from Oxford University, the Central European University at Budapest, and Budapest University of Technology and Economics have published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE.

The model was applied retrospectively so the researchers systematically charted the online buzz on Wikipedia around particular films and compared this with the box office takings from the first weekend after release. The results of the comparison between the predicted opening weekend revenue, using their mathematical model, and the actual figures (published in Internet Movie Database [IMDb]) showed a high degree ofcorrelation.

Their mathematical algorithm allowed them to predict box office revenues with an overall accuracy of around 77%. The study authors say this level of accuracy is higher than the best existing predictive models applied by marketing firms (which they estimate to be at around 57%). They could predict the box office takings of six out of 312 films with 99% accuracy where the predicted value was within 1% of the real value. Some 23 movies were predicted with 90% accuracy and 70 movies with an accuracy of 70% and above.


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