Physicists predict success of movies at the box office

June 15, 2012

A group of Japanese scientists have surprised themselves by being able to predict the success or failure of blockbuster movies at the box office using a set of mathematical models.

The researchers, publishing their study today, 15 June, in the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society’s New Journal of Physics, used the effects of advertising and word-of-mouth communication to create a model that turned out to be successful in predicting how each movie fared once it hit the silver screen.

The only data the researchers needed to put into the model were the daily advertisement costs of 25 movies that appeared in Japanese cinemas.

Their model was originally designed to predict how word-of-mouth communication spread over social networks, applying it to conversations about movies in particular, which was a success; however, they also found that when they overlapped their predictions with the actual revenue of the films, they were very similar.

They now intend to apply their model to other commercial markets, such as online music, food snacks, noodle cups, soft drinks and local events.

The researchers, from Tottori University, used their model to calculate the likelihood of an individual going to watch a movie in a Japanese cinema over a period ranging from 60 days prior to the movie’s opening date to 100 days after it had opened.

Recognising that word-of-mouth communication, as well as advertising, has a profound effect on whether a person goes to see a movie or not, whether this is talking about it to friends (direct communication) or overhearing a conversation about it in a café (indirect communication), the researchers accounted for this in their calculations.

The daily number of blog postings for each of the 25 films was also collected from the internet as a means of comparison for the researchers’ calculations.

Lead author of the study, Professor Akira Ishii, said: “If a person is reading and commenting on a friend’s blog, we consider this as direct communication. If a person happens to come across a blog through a series of web pages and links, we consider this indirect communication.”

The result was a set of graphs outlining a person’s intent on watching movies such as The Da Vinci Code, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Spider-Man 3, Transformers and Avatar, based on the daily amount of money spent on advertising the film and word-of-mouth.

When overlaid on the actual revenue from these movies whilst screened in the cinema, they appeared to match very well, meaning the calculations could provide a fairly good prediction of how successful a movie could be even before it is released.

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From 15 June, this paper can be downloaded from http://iopscience.iop.org/1367-2630/14/6/063018/article

Notes to Editors

Contact

1. For further information, a full draft of the journal paper or contact with one of the researchers, contact IOP Publishing Press Officer, Michael Bishop:
Tel: 0117 930 1032
E-mail: Michael.Bishop@iop.org

The ‘hit’ phenomenon: a mathematical model of human dynamics interactions as a stochastic process

2. The published version of the paper “The ‘hit’ phenomenon: a mathematical model of human dynamics interactions as a stochastic process” Ishii A et al 2012 New J. Phys. 14 063018 will be freely available online from 15 June. It will be available at http://iopscience.iop.org/1367-2630/14/6/063018/article

New Journal of Physics

3. New Journal of Physics publishes across the whole of physics, encompassing pure, applied, theoretical and experimental research, as well as interdisciplinary topics where physics forms the central theme. All content is permanently free to read and the journal is funded by an article publication charge.

IOP Publishing

4. IOP Publishing provides publications through which leading-edge scientific research is distributed worldwide. IOP Publishing is central to the Institute of Physics (IOP), a not-for-profit society. Any financial surplus earned by IOP Publishing goes to support science through the activities of IOP. Beyond our traditional journals programme, we make high-value scientific information easily accessible through an ever-evolving portfolio of community websites, magazines, conference proceedings and a multitude of electronic services. Focused on making the most of new technologies, we’re continually improving our electronic interfaces to make it easier for researchers to find exactly what they need, when they need it, in the format that suits them best. Go to http://ioppublishing.org/

The Institute of Physics

5. The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society promoting physics and bringing physicists together for the benefit of all.

It has a worldwide membership of around 40 000 comprising physicists from all sectors, as well as those with an interest in physics. It works to advance physics research, application and education; and engages with policy makers and the public to develop awareness and understanding of physics. Its publishing company, IOP Publishing, is a world leader in professional scientific communications. Go to www.iop.org

The German Physical Society

6. The German Physical Society (DPG) with a tradition extending back to 1845 is the largest physical society in the world with more than 59,000 members. The DPG sees itself as the forum and mouthpiece for physics and is a non-profit organisation that does not pursue financial interests. It supports the sharing of ideas and thoughts within the scientific community, fosters physics teaching and would also like to open a window to physics for all those with a healthy curiosity.

Contact: Michael Bishop
michael.bishop@iop.org
44-117-930-1032
Institute of Physics


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