HollywoodSign

The confluence of science and art has created some of the most significant achievements in architecture, music, sports, and even business.  In part 1 of this series, I discussed the connection between science and art in the world of baseball.  In part 2, I will explore the approach some major Hollywood studios are taking to incorporate data into the art of filmmaking.

Similar to baseball, Hollywood movie production companies risk billions of dollars each year on hundreds of movies across all genres. Very few are blockbusters; many are duds and lose money, and the rest fall somewhere in between. Combining a good script with an “A” list celebrity does not guarantee success. Yet for decades, this was the accepted formula for increasing the odds of producing a winning movie.

As with baseball, Hollywood is an industry steeped in tradition, and the pervasive thinking is that movie production is an art form.  However, with sophisticated investors looking to balance risk and return, “big data” and analytics have found their way into the “back lot”.

So how are Hollywood studios embracing technology to be more profitable and successful? Data and analytics are now being used in two areas: script development and marketing for both movies and T.V. series.

Script writing has long been an artistic craft which many have attempted while only a few have succeeded.  Thousands of scripts have made it to the big screen, and the outcomes of these movies are now known (i.e. blockbuster, dud, or break-even).  Interestingly, each script can actually be broken down into hundreds of attributes.  This is an analyst’s dream – a repository of millions of data points and a known set of outcomes.  How does someone draw conclusions on potential success or failure of a movie script based on all of this data?

Enter Epagogix, a predictive analytics company that places valuations on plot points like car chases, love scenes, location and quirky sidekicks. These factors are scored according to a directory in the way a teacher scores a test. The scores are fed into a computer, predictive analytics are applied and a calculation of how much the movie will make is determined. 

In addition, insight is gained on where changes could be made to increase the earning potential, such as changing the setting or scaling back a role.

The solution was used by a major Hollywood studio to forecast the revenue of 16 new TV shows that would be airing in approximately 3 months. Epagogix analyzed all 16 pre-season trailers to gain insight on their potential success. The shows aired and of the 16, the Epagogix solution nailed 14 of them with regards to viewership and ad revenue.

One Hollywood studio exec said about the solution, “You’re like card counters in Vegas. If you can help us miss just one turkey a year, that would be immense. “

Another area where analytics are being used in the film making business is in marketing.

The typical marketing budget for a feature film is half of the production budget. If the budget is $100 million, $50 million goes towards the marketing effort to fill the seats in the theater. But as is often the case, the production company simply doesn’t know who their audience is or what it could be. The model is antiquated and ineffective in most instances.

One company that is changing the way filmmakers market their art is FilmBreak. Essentially a virtual film studio, FilmBreak empowers filmmakers to actively build, engage, and monetize their online audience. Prior to release, filmmakers can quickly and easily promote their films through social media, build a fan base, and incentivize fans to support their films by offering access to exclusive content, live stream video chats and production updates, as an example.

FilmBreak helps filmmakers figure out who their audience is and learn about their taste profiles. The data they collect helps them optimize their marketing effort so their marketing dollars can go further.

Similar to baseball, rather than using data to take away from the creative magic of screenwriters which has been trusted for decades, the goal is to make the production more merit-driven based on verified information, not on somebody’s opinion or connections. 

So far we have explored the practical applications of combining science and art outside of the retail industry. In my final post in this series, I will discuss how the right mix of science and art is changing the way retailers design and select new fashion products, mitigating the risks of new product introductions.

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