Google Unveils Model to Predict Box Office Success

9:00 AM PST 06/06/2013 by Paul Bond

The company says it can use search data to project a film's opening weekend revenue with 94 percent accuracy.

Google appears to be getting into the business of predicting the box-office performance of movies as much as four weeks ahead of their release dates.

In a blog post on Thursday from Andrea Chen, Google's principal industry analyst, media and entertainment, the giant Internet company announced results of a study it calls "Quantifying Movie Magic with Google Search." In a nutshell, Chen says Google can use search volume to predict with remarkable accuracy the success of upcoming movies.

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Four weeks out, Google looks at search volume for a film's trailer, factors in other information, like franchise status and seasonality, and can predict opening weekend box office revenue with 94 percent accuracy, Chen boasts.

To predict within one week out, Google uses search volume for a film's title rather than its trailer and combines it with data such as theater counts in order to make a prediction that is 92 percent accurate.

"In the seven-day window prior to a film's release date, if a film receives 250,000 search queries more than a similar film, the film with more queries is likely to perform up to $4.3 million better during opening weekend," Chen says in her blog posting. "When looking at search ad click volume, if a film has 20,000 more paid clicks than a similar film, it is expected to bring in up to $7.5 million more during opening weekend."

Google has also developed a formula -- also primarily based on search volume -- that predicts how movies will perform the week following their opening weekend, and says it boasts an accuracy rate of 90 percent.

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Google hasn't yet said what it intends on doing with its newfound predictive powers, though insiders say it can be used by film studios to better market their films. Google doesn't plan on selling its data, but sharing it with clients, they say.

Google's study -- what it calls a "Google Whitepaper" -- uses data it collected on the 99 top films of 2012.

"On average, moviegoers consult 13 sources before they make a decision about what movie to see," according to the Whitepaper. "This active research and engagement is reflected in search query volume as well. Although the number of titles released declined 9 percent in 2012 vs. 2011, movie searches on Google are up 56 percent in this same period."

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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