Hollywood studio Warner Bros - the company behind classics from Casablanca to The Matrix and Color Purple to Gone with the Wind - is trialling machine learning technology in an effort to predict which movies will turn into box office hits.
Traditionally the formula for success has been to throw plenty of money at a film, bring in a big name director, a top cast and hope everything falls into place. More recently, movie studios have been spending millions on tracking polls to gauge movie interest in advance and help to co-ordinate release dates and marketing schedules.
Now Warner is turning to artificial intelligence and cloud-based project management system Cinelytics to inform its decisions around “talent valuations” and release strategies.
The brainchild of former investment banker Tobias Queisser and ex-NASA risk-assessment software developer Dev Sen, the platform applies machine learning models to box office performance data, home rentals and even pirated downloads, which it cross-references with information about genres, seasonal release dates and actors.
The subscription-based interface works like a questionnaire, similar to an online insurance form. Users can enter information about their projects, such as budget, the name of the director and leading cast, when and where the film is being released and the machine learning algorithms do the rest.
The company claims the system can predict the economic value of a film and even the total revenues it will achieve over its lifetime.
According to Cinelytic, the sheer amount and scope of data and insights in its platform will “reduce time spent on low-value, repetitive tasks” enabling studio executives to focus on “generating actionable insights for packaging, green-lighting, marketing and distribution decisions”.
Warner Bros senior vice-president for international pictures Tonis Kiis said: "In our industry, we make tough decisions every day that affect what - and how - we produce and deliver films to theatres around the world, and the more precise our data is, the better we will be able to engage our audiences."