Improving movie scripts with data analytics

Over the past few decades, Hollywood producers have increasingly become dependent on blockbuster movies to generate the revenue streams they require to rationalize investing millions of dollars into a single film, with blockbuster movies like "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises" forming the backbone of the filmmaking industry for some time now. According to the Economist, successful releases aimed at a wide audience were in large part responsible for box-office revenues reaching a record $10.8 billion in 2012. Individual movies are raking in more money than ever before. The recently released "Iron Man 3" has already earned $175.3 million after the first three days of its North American release, CNN reported. Last year's top earner, "The Avengers," made $623.4 million in the United States alone.

The rising costs of film development
However, the cost of funding these projects has skyrocketed as well. For example, "Iron Man 3" cost Disney approximately $200 million, according to CNN. With the amount of money being invested in potential blockbuster movies, Hollywood production companies have looked at every possible method to ensure the release of a lucrative hit. One potential solution filmmaking executives have been pursuing is data analytics.

More studios have begun employing big data solutions during the script writing process to eliminate factors that may prevent a film from connecting with an audience. For instance, many producers have hired the services of a former statistics professor named Vinny Bruzzese to analyze their scripts and suggest changes that would make them more palatable to a wider audience, The New York Times reported. Some of his recommendations would seem to fall in line with commonly held thoughts such as that audiences like sympathetic sidekicks.

Digging into audience data
However, he has also gleaned some unusual insights into factors that characterize successes and flops. For instance, his research concluded that movies containing scenes with characters bowling tend to bomb at the box office. In addition, Bruzzese determined that audiences prefer demons that target a specific character than those summoned by a Ouija Board in horror movies.

While some in the film industry – writers, specifically – have shown some resistance to the burgeoning use of data analytics in the script development process, many producers, studio executives and financiers have praised its application.

"It takes a lot of risk out of what I do," producer Scott Steindorff told the news outlet. "Everyone is going to be doing this soon."

Bruzzese's recommendations may veer from the insightful to the seemingly bizarre. However, with hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in blockbuster releases, Hollywood producers will take any opportunity to mitigate the financial risk of developing a film. With Hadoop big data tools, studios can craft scripts that are more likely to engage an audience and generate ticket sales. 

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