Resistance is futile. Warner Bros. has become the latest studio to publicly embrace artificial intelligence.
The movie division has signed a deal with Cinelytic to use the latter’s AI-driven project management system that was launched last year.
Under the new deal, Warners will leverage the system’s comprehensive data and predictive analytics to guide decision-making at the greenlight stage. The integrated online platform can assess the value of a star in any territory and how much a film is expected to make in theaters and on other ancillary streams.
Founded four years ago by Tobias Queisser, Cinelytic has been building and beta testing the platform for three years. In 2018, the company raised $2.25 million from T&B Media Global and signed deals with Ingenious Media (Wind River) and Productivity Media (The Little Hours). STX, which endured a number of flops in 2019, including Playmobil and Uglydolls, became a Cinelytic client in September.
While the platform won’t necessarily predict what will be the next $1 billion surprise, like Warners’ hit Joker, it will reduce the amount of time executives spend on low-value, repetitive tasks and instead give them better dollar-figure parameters for packaging, marketing and distribution decisions, including release dates.
The platform is particularly helpful in the festival setting, where studios get caught in bidding wars and plunk down massive sums after only hours of assessment (as happened with New Line’s $15 million acquisition of Blinded by the Light out of last year's Sundance Film Festival). The Cinelytic AI’s insight might also have altered decision-making on some of Warners’ misfires from 2019, such as The Kitchen, Shaft and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
“The system can calculate in seconds what used to take days to assess by a human when it comes to general film package evaluation or a star’s worth,” says Queisser.
Adds Tonis Kiis, senior vp distribution: “We make tough decisions every day that affect what — and how — we produce and deliver films to theaters around the world, and the more precise our data is, the better we will be able to engage our audiences.”
Still, Hollywood fancies itself as a town that operates on gut instinct rather than algorithms, for better or for worse. And unlike Silicon Valley, the industry has been slow to use AI for more menial tasks like script breakdowns, fearful that it will take away jobs and make humans obsolete. Queisser counters that narrative.
“Artificial intelligence sounds scary. But right now, an AI cannot make any creative decisions,” says Queisser. “What it is good at is crunching numbers and breaking down huge data sets and showing patterns that would not be visible to humans. But for creative decision-making, you still need experience and gut instinct.”