A Computer Is Deciding What Movies You’re Going to Watch Next

Credit: fortune.com

Hollywood allocates considerable brainpower and capital toward crafting the perfect formula for a blockbuster. And now a growing number of tech startups are taking that idea literally.


Take Vault, an Israel-based artificial-intelligence startup that's one of the newest entrants using analytics and algorithms to predict ticket sales.


Vault CEO and co-founder David Stiff says his company's 4CAST platform can analyze the box office potential of a film based only on the "core story DNA" gleaned from a raw screenplay or a movie trailer. Founded in 2015, Vault has spent two years honing a neural-network algorithm that relies on 30 years worth of box office revenues, film budgets, audience demographics, and casting information to help determine box office potential.


And it's not alone. Other companies in the space include the U.K.'s Epagogix, founded in 2003, as well as ScriptBook and Boston-based Pilot. Forward-thinking studios like Legendary Pictures (now owned by China's Dalian Wanda) also rely on their own in-house analytics teams to devise data-informed marketing strategies.


Stiff admits his platform whiffed on the recent surprise box office success of the groundbreaking satirical horror movie Get Out after underestimating the film's social media buzz. But ultimately, he says roughly 75 percent of Vault's predictions come "pretty close" to the films' actual opening grosses. The company recently predicted a $16.1 million domestic opening for the sci-fi thriller Life, which debuted at $12.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo. A little farther afield? Buddy cop comedy CHiPs premiered to $7.7 million, versus Vault's $15 million prediction.


While Hollywood tweaks the code for the box office battle, a larger war for audiences' attention looms. Box office forecasting has always been en vogue in Hollywood, but the movie industry's eternal conundrum has a new element of urgency thanks to the ascendance of streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Video.


With their treasure troves of user data, those online distributors have access to a wealth of information that can help gauge exactly what audiences want to watch--and how and when. And, while traditional movie studios don't have access to that same data (which Netflix and Amazon do not share), box office results are mostly public knowledge.


In other words, traditional Hollywood's search for the perfect algorithm could pale in comparison to the Big Data battles to come.


 



?AI Predicts This Summer’s Opening Weekend Box-Office Hauls

BAYWATCH
$21.58m on 3,500 screens
???DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE LONG HAUL
$17.3m on 3,400 screens
???ROUGH NIGHT
$15.6m on 3,000 screens
?SNATCHED
?$13.3m on 3,000 screens
Algorithms can use inputs like Amy Schumer's popularity to project ticket sales.
ATOMIC BLONDE
$9.2m on 2,900 screens

???Source: Vault



A version of this article appears in the May 1, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline “Hollywood’s Search for a Blockbuster Algorithm.”

Top Stories

Public Window on Financial Complaints Could be Closing Soon

You might have to say goodbye to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's public database.
  • 1 hour ago
  • 4

How to Get the Most Out of a Trip to Buenos Aires

For pleasure or business, take this concierge's advice.
  • 1 hour ago
  • 4

Chinese banks face profitability pressure: Moody's

CHINESE listed banks were confronted with profitability pressure from the country's slowing economic growth, despite the absence of any significant deterioration in reported asset performance, said Moody's
  • 8 hours ago
  • 3

Member of Security Watchdog OSCE Killed in Ukraine

The role of the monitors includes verifying the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
  • 1 hour ago
  • 3

Credit Suisse to Make Capital Hike Decision After AGM

The Swiss bank is considering a quick-fire share sale and other options.
  • 26 minutes ago
  • 2
farawayyachtingcharters - Easy Branches
botoxfillerveintheraphyinphuket - Easy Branches

Latest in Financial

Credit Suisse to Make Capital Hike Decision After AGM

The Swiss bank is considering a quick-fire share sale and other options.
  • 26 minutes ago

Member of Security Watchdog OSCE Killed in Ukraine

The role of the monitors includes verifying the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
  • 1 hour ago

How to Get the Most Out of a Trip to Buenos Aires

For pleasure or business, take this concierge's advice.
  • 1 hour ago

Public Window on Financial Complaints Could be Closing Soon

You might have to say goodbye to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's public database.
  • 1 hour ago

Chinese banks face profitability pressure: Moody's

CHINESE listed banks were confronted with profitability pressure from the country's slowing economic growth, despite the absence of any significant deterioration in reported asset performance, said Moody's
  • 8 hours ago

Plaintiff: Theranos Used Shell Companies to Buy Outside Testing Equipment

Deposed employees also acknowledged misleading statements to investors.
  • 18 hours ago

Russian Gets Longest U.S. Hacking Sentence Ever

Son of Putin ally handed 27 years.
  • 18 hours ago

President Trump Defends Environmental Record on Earth Day

March on Science targeting Trump's policies on research and the environment was also held Saturday
  • 19 hours ago

Anthony Bourdain Says the Unicorn Frappucino Is ‘the Perfect Nexus of Awfulness’

Anthony Bourdain minced no words when describing his thoughts on the colorful drink.
  • 19 hours ago

Hash Browns Recalled for Possible Golf Ball Contamination

Golf ball materials "may have been inadvertently harvested" with potatoes to make the hash browns
  • 20 hours ago

Waymo Claims Uber “Cover Up” of Project Based on Stolen IP

Asks judge to bar Levandowsi from driverless car project.
  • 20 hours ago

Apple’s Reported iPhone Update Might Have Hit a Rough Patch

And all the other Apple news and rumors this week.
  • 21 hours ago