AI to Predict Film Success
Sat, April 10, 2021

AI to Predict Film Success

From a distance, the film business seems so glamorous, complete with actors ramping down red carpets and directors saying their films were a success. This is not surprising since a lot of people remain fond of watching movies / Photo by: macor via 123RF

 

From a distance, the film business seems so glamorous, complete with actors ramping down red carpets and directors saying their films were a success. This is not surprising since a lot of people remain fond of watching movies. A 2018 survey showed that 19% of Americans go to the movies about once a month, 8% go to see movies several times a month, and 4% go about once per week. These numbers are important considering the fact that 54% of American adults prefer watching movies at home.

It is projected that the global film industry will become more successful in the coming years. Statista, a German online portal for statistics, reported that the global box office revenue is predicted to reach nearly $50 billion in 2020 from only $38 billion in 2016. Meanwhile, in the UK, 2018 was a stand-out year for cinema admissions with ticket sales reaching 177 million – an increase of 3.7% from 2017.

According to British Film Institute (BFI), a film and charitable organization that promotes and preserves filmmaking and television, the UK was the only one that saw an increase in admissions in 2018 out of all five major European Union (EU) territories. Attendance in several countries declined, including France (-4.0%), Germany (-13.9%), Spain (-2.9%), and Italy (-7.0%). The European Audiovisual Observatory also reported that total admissions in the EU decreased by 3% to 955 million. Meanwhile, the year-on-year admissions increased in the world’s three largest theatrical markets: China (6.0%), North America (4.8%), and India (2.45). 

These figures show that not all movies become successful, no matter how popular the cast. Any movie nowadays is an extremely risky investment, even if it consists of big-name actors and actresses. There’s no sure path that could make a film successful since producers and directors need to consider a lot of factors such as brand awareness, P&A budgets, and the desires of a fickle public. Thus, players in the film entertainment industry are now exploring new technologies, particularly artificial intelligence, to help them.

AI is changing the film-making industry in many ways such as in revealing patterns, trends, and user preferences. It can analyze large amounts of data to create remarkable solutions. This data includes box office revenues, production costs, and audience demographics. It’s not surprising that many companies that utilize AI are making their presence known in the film industry. 

Predicting Film Success Through AI

Most people don’t realize that making movies is risky. Reports show that only less than 20% of films make their budgets back and less than 50% of films are profitable. Hollywood also experiences these kinds of results although it has easy access to talent and large production and marketing budgets. Thus, many companies and startups are exploring AI to help the film industry.

LA-based startup Cinelytic, for instance, launched an AI system in 2019 leveraging AI to forecast film performance. The startup has been building and beta testing the platform for three years now since it was founded in 2015. In the company, Cinelytic was able to raise $2.25 million from T&B Media Global and signed deals with Ingenious Media (Wind River) and Productivity Media (The Little Hours). Little did they know that more companies would become interested in their AI system. 

According to The Guardian, a daily British newspaper, Cinelytic claims an accuracy of 85% in its box office forecasting. It has gathered data from more than 95,000 movies and 500,000 actors and professionals. Clients can play with the variables and assess the impact on the box office with its user-friendly interface. Recently, giant entertainment company Warner Bros. signed a deal with Cinelytic that will help them determine the success of production based on analysis of similar films, the talent involved, and other criteria. 

Most people don’t realize that making movies is risky. Reports show that only less than 20% of films make their budgets back and less than 50% of films are profitable / Photo by: nicoletaionescu via 123RF

 

The company will be using the startup’s algorithms “to guide decision-making at the greenlight stage” as well as help them with marketing and distribution decisions. The AI system analyzes historical data about movie performances over the years, which will be cross-referenced with information about films’ themes and key talent.

For instance, Cinelytic’s AI system can see how changing Emma Watson as the lead role in a film to Jennifer Lawrence might change the film’s box office performance. “You can compare them separately, compare them in the package. Model out both scenarios with Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence, and see, for this particular film … which has better implications for different territories,” Cinelytic co-founder and CEO Tobias Queisse said.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, an online source for breaking news about Hollywood and entertainment, including movies, TV, reviews and industry blogs, the AI system could even be helpful in the festival setting. It could also have altered the decision-making on some of Warners’ misfires from 2019, including “The Kitchen,” “Shaft,” and “Godzilla: King of Masters.” 

“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,” Queisser added. 

Controlling Storytelling and Preventing Bias

Cinelytic is not the only startup with an AI system that can help the film industry. According to The Verge, an American technology news and media network that publishes news items, long-form feature stories, guidebooks, product reviews, and podcasts, Belgian start-up Scriptbook has an AI tool that predicts success at an even earlier stage by reading a film’s script and projecting its chances of success. OpenAI’s GPT-2 large-scale unsupervised language model can generate stories for movies. 

However, experts believe that while AI has great potential in the industry, humans must stay in control of storytelling. “It’s really important that we remain human storytellers, that we don’t just throw our stories through machine learning. The best art in the world is created by error and human madness, and beautiful fantasy that we have,” Norwegian filmmaker Tonje Hessen Schei said. 

Another problem that AI can bring to the industry is bias. Movies that leverage AI often reflect the biases and prejudices of its creators. “A lot of people think it’s maths so it can’t be biased, whereas in fact it’s completely the opposite way around: it’s maths, and therefore its data, and whatever data you feed a machine will have a bias in it. The world is biased, and so these machines exacerbate our own biases,” Tabitha Goldstaub, a tech entrepreneur and commentator who specializes in AI, said. 

AI is beginning to play a huge role in predicting what films can attract more audiences. This can not only help companies plan who to cast in lead roles, but contribute to a thriving film industry as a whole.

AI is beginning to play a huge role in predicting what films can attract more audiences. This can not only help companies plan who to cast in lead roles, but contribute to a thriving film industry as a whole / Photo by: Andrea De Martin via 123RF