Thursday, September 20, 2007

Movie Exec Secrets

For many years, many movie studio executives shared a secret. And the secret's name was Epagogix. Problem was that some senior executive (Copaken could be the name) was showing off to Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point), bragging how this company could predict how a movie would perform at the box office before the movie was released.

More incredibly, when looking at various factors that determined box office success, the actors really did not matter all that much. Location of the movie, where it was set, the number of different locations, that sort of thing, had much more to do with box office success, than other things. I mean, it turns out that Angelina Jolie's puffy lips have less to do with box office success than a location, such as Los Angeles or Rio De Janeiro.1

Now I don't know too much about any of this, but the point is that we are in a world where there is so much data out there. And people are just now figuring out how to use this data. Simple regression analysis can tell you things that, years ago, nobody knew. Think about it – companies have data on their servers that can tell us by moving toothpaste to a higher shelf, how many more tubes will be sold. Powerful data.

Please take a breath.

This should scare the crap out of you.

We all think we are unpredictable, but with enough data, computer nerds now can make expressions that can accurately predict human behavior.

Please take a breath. I am sure some mathematical expression know I would type that. I am going back to bed now.

1Okay, I don't know if Los Angeles is good or bad for a movie. Rio De Janeiro has to be good (Brazilian waxes and all). But you get the point.


Advizor said...

Many years ago, the science fiction author/scientist/futurist, Isaac Asimov predicted the rise of a mathematical model that could predict the future, not of individuals, but of entire societies. He said several times that all we needed was more data and a way to search it.

We are fast approaching the time when common data storage formats, such as XML and SQL, will allow databases of all kinds (medical, retail, government, Internet traffic, TV habits) to share data and connect it to individuals, and from individuals, groups.

Soon, both government and business will know what product a cute, brunette, Catholic, married mom with no kids is going to by, what shows she will watch, and when she is ovulating. Laugh if you will, but our privacy, and even our free will, is almost at an end.

Anonymous Boxer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous Boxer said...

What freaks me out is how much data TIVO is sucking through my phone lines at night as I sleep. And then selling to the data people who crunch my life into a percentage.

I'm going to find a drink now... and I'm at work.

Prata said...

Free will is still free will, regardless of if it can be predicted. It is not prediction that removes free will, because being able to predict a person's actions is a passive ability (even if you're actively searching data to determine the person's actions).

People lose free will when they are no longer able to make any other decision than what some entity forces one to make, which is an active inteference with our human nature.

Data isn't powerful. Data is just data. What people do with data to formulate an outcome or rule the data source is powerful.

It has always been true that with increasing data and an ability to process aforementioned data, people would be able to predict more and do more. Asimov wasn't being a sci-fi visionary, it was simply an extension of truth on a larger and constantly shrinking scale.

Our cell phones have more processing power than the first super computer ever had. Hundreds of times that power in fact. I'm kind of disturbed that people find this scary lol.

Kat said...

Everyone's life is an open book nowdays. Horrifying.

RWA said...

That is interesting. I would have never thought that movie success would be affected more by location than the actors, etc.

Leesa said...

advizor: it is not just common formats; it is also cheaper storage.

boxer: tivo is probably figuring out how many sappy romantic comedies, shoot-em-up action films and sports programs filter through your telephone lines.

prata: I remember the first Macintosh computer I worked on. Calculators have more processing power now.

kat: some of us try and keep some of the best parts closed.

rwa: sort of disturbing.

LarryLilly said...

So if people are genuinely nuts, as in nucking futz, then the computer would not be able to "model" them, and then only a random number generator like a lottery pick would work.

So the moral is act more like McMurphy (one flew over the cuckoos nest) than Nurse Ratchet.

But as that film pointed out, WHEN and IF society cant figure you out, they TAKE you out.


Ian Lidster said...

I know you're not crazy about memes, but I tagged you anyway just because you are so adept with words and I'd love your thoughts on this.

Edge said...

Not surprising. I think we are a pretty predictable group. You watch us long enough and we all start to follow patterns. Probably based on our basic needs - and believe it or not, I do NOT consider sex a basic need - otherwise many of us would have died at an early age.


Leesa said...

larry: I think a sub-set of us are nuts, and computers can already model our actions. How else would you explain 8-track-tape sales, Star Trek conventions and Christmas displays in October that attract customers.

ian: Well, I will look at the meme; I had to stop reading your answer, though, because if I do this, I don't want to get any ideas.

edge: based on your answer, Professional Football (the NFL) must be a basic need. Not sure, but I think professional football must be a basic need.

Black Jack Bauer said...

I'm not sure I completely buy this. Then again, maybe I just don't want to?

This is as close as I like to get to predictability: Jeremiah 29:11.