How Wikipedia Can Help Track Movie Buzz

Scientists have found a correlation between activity on the online encyclopedia and a movie's success.

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter have proved handy -- if scientifically iffy -- tools for tracking advance movie buzz. Now, a new study out of Hungary finds that Wikipedia could prove equally if not more valuable than those other sites in predicting box-office performance.

The study -- undertaken at Budapest University of Technology and Economics and posted this week online --  says that by examining patterns of behavior on the communal encyclopedia, Hollywood execs can predict how a movie will perform up to a month before its release.

Examining 312 movies released in 2010, researchers considered a number of factors: page views, number of edits and editors to a film's entr and a third, more mysterious element they call "the collaborative rigor."

Graphing that data against the movies' financial performance offered compelling evidence of a direct correlation between Wikipedia "heat" and box-office take -- with accuracy rates between 77 percent and 90 percent. 

But hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. The study only applies to data retroactively; it doesn't apply the model to films that have yet to hit theaters.