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Movies Wikipedia Science

Wikipedia Can Predict Box Office Flops 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the citation-needed dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Despite a record year, like every year before it, 2013 remained fraught with its fair share of box office disasters. What if studios could minimize their loses and predict when the next Pluto Nash-level flop was imminent? According to new research published in PLoS One, they may actually be able to. Using data gleaned from Wikipedia articles, researchers measured the likelihood of a film's financial success based on four parameters: number of total page views; number of total edits made; number of users editing; and the number of revisions in the article's revision history, or 'collaborative rigor.'"
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Wikipedia Can Predict Box Office Flops

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  • Oh great... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:47PM (#44659863)

    ... because what we REALLY need is more studios taking LESS chances...

    Some of the greatest movies have been box-office flops.

    • Re:Oh great... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by edawstwin (242027) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:50PM (#44659897)
      Like it or not, studios are out to make money, not great movies. For all they're concerned, every movie could be a Chipmunks sequel.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Like it or not, studios are out to make money, not great movies. For all they're concerned, every movie could be a Chipmunks sequel.

        Exactly. The goal of a movie is to put asses in seats. That's it.

        It's why summer blockbusters are practically all the same, no-content visual effects fluff full of violence (but not sex! can't have that!). That stuff sells - and having a simplistic story means even the simplest of minds can follow.

        Great movies.... they're good and they last, but often it flies over the heads of

        • Re:Oh great... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:11PM (#44660079)

          Like it or not, studios are out to make money, not great movies. For all they're concerned, every movie could be a Chipmunks sequel.

          Exactly. The goal of a movie is to put asses in seats. That's it.

          But that is a silly goal EVEN IF you simply want to maximize profits. It would be better to charge more per seat for good movies and less for bad movies. Also, the price should fall each week as the audience diminishes, to encourage repeat viewers, or to get more "impulse watchers" that are willing to spend $2 but not $12.

          As long as I am on a rant, airlines should also price differentiate their seats. Middle seats should be $20 less than windows or aisles, and your ticket should be at least a few bucks cheaper in the back of the plane.

          • I would think that movie theatres would want you to spend $12 to see the new movie that just came out instead of a $2 movie that has been out for six weeks.

            Why do you think that studios time movie releases the way they do? It would be foolish to release three romantic comedies in one week (for example), since most movie viewers would watch one and wait for the DVD release on the other two.

            • Re:Oh great... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by jxander (2605655) on Friday August 23, 2013 @07:46PM (#44661127)

              12 > 2 ... but 2 > 0 . If the choices are "See a decent movie for full price, or nothing at all" then I'm going to stick with nothing at all. Selling the ticket cheap gets my butt into the theatre, where I might buy popcorn, play some video games, see a trailer for some movie I didn't realize was coming out next weekend... etc

              In reality though, this isn't a movie theatre's decision. The Studios are what drive ticket sales. Disney, Sony, Fox, etc. get nearly 100% of the ticket prices, and sometimes even MORE than 100%. There was a dust-up recently when Disney flexed it's Marvel Muscles, and wanted significantly MORE than $12 per ticket from the theatres, for the rights to show Iron Man 3. This put theatres in a tough spot. They can't exactly say NO. "sorry, we're not showing Iron Man because Disney wanted to put us over a barrel and we stood up for ourselves" So they took the loss and hoped to make up the difference on concession sales. Given that reality, I can't see the Studios agreeing to $2 tickets, when the theatre will make most of the bonus cash from it.

              Can't wait to see what happens when the next Star Wars comes out...

              • Selling the ticket cheap gets my butt into the theatre

                As a kid in the 60's there was an old movie theatre in our town, Saturday was kids day, it was half price Jerry Lewis movies, etc. It was mainly free from adult supervision, especially in the morning when mums and dads were out shopping (by law, all shops except for milk bars and petrol stations closed at midday Saturday and reopened Monday morning).

            • by dywolf (2673597)

              the theaters themselves make money on the concessions. most of the box office goes to the studios (or rather, repays the money the theater spent on acquiring the movie...same end result). the theaters would GLADLY charge lower prices over time to get butts in seats, cause most of those butts LOVE their little treats during the movie.

              but the stupidos (hah. now THERES a fruedian slip) i mean studios dont charge theaters for movies on a sliding scale. yet. there's first run theaters at X, and then the dollar/s

          • by dywolf (2673597)

            STOP MAKING SENSE!
            what, you think its easy to change prices constantly? its not like we have computers we can program to do it for ....

          • by houghi (78078)

            Why fixed pricing? Why not supply and demand?

            When I go to the movies, I never go during the first week, but rather as late as possible and if possible on a Sunday afternoon, when nobody goes anyway.

            That way I have most of the theater for myself. I do not even go with friends who disturb me during the movie. We can talk other times. I just spend money to watch a movie so I want to enjoy that movie.

            That way I have seen some famous movies, like LOTR with (per movie) 5, 8 and 0 other people in a 250 seat theate

          • The week to week thing wouldn't work. It would simply add to one of the many reasons not to see a movie opening night (crowds, waiting to see if people you know actually liked the movie, etc.) The crowd reason alone stops me from seeing movies the 1st week or two they are out.

            They do have something similar to what you are looking for called dollar theaters.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discount_theater [wikipedia.org]

          • Also, the price should fall each week as the audience diminishes, to encourage repeat viewers, or to get more "impulse watchers" that are willing to spend $2 but not $12.

            That already (sort of) happens. In my city, there are several "discount theaters" that get the movie a few weeks after release and charge $2. The only catch is that they are not the same theaters as the ones that charge full price, and they're usually older and not quite as nice (no stadium seating, for example).

        • The goal of a movie is to put asses in seats.

          This comment makes me sad for humanity. Also, if this were true, why do they serve 3 gallon servings of soda? That just makes bigger asses, allowing for fewer asses per screening.

          • by edawstwin (242027)
            Because they can charge $4 for the 32 oz. "Small" soda. The actual soda costs pennies, so it doesn't matter much if they serve you 20 oz or 32 oz, they just want you to pay $4 for a soda. It's the same reason restaurants charge $20 for a meal that no average person could finish. They have a minimum they want you to spend, and as long as people keep paying for it, you end up with more soda/popcorn/food than is consumable.
            • by iluvcapra (782887)
              The somewhat more teleological answer is that movie theaters only get a very small percentage of a film's first two weeks box office revenue, and as theatrical-PPV-home video release schedules have compressed, the amount of profit theaters actually take from exhibiting movies has gotten quite small. They get to keep 100% of the concession money, however.
        • Re:Oh great... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by icebike (68054) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:23PM (#44660163)

          Well bringing the discussion back on point, (I know, I know), how would Wiki predict a flop ahead of time?

          After all, people have to see it, or at least have access to the script, a complete list of cast, production crew, and special effects to even begin to write a stub article on Wiki.

          It would appear TFA addresses none of this. They don't appear to throw out updates and page views that pre-date the actual release date. The look at AFTER-THE FACT data.

          Further, these results could and would be gamed the minute it was revealed anyone was paying attention. The posts prior to casting, shooting, and editing would be from insiders, looking to feather their own nest. There are no actual movie goers involved that early. Usually the script is closely guarded so that even enthusiasts of the book are clueless. Even the actors don't necessarily know how something will turn out, and don't have a concept of the entire film until after its been cut, scored, and edited. That leaves a very small cadre of knowledgeable people who would have anything authoritative to say ahead of time.

          • by Firethorn (177587) on Friday August 23, 2013 @06:10PM (#44660537) Homepage Journal

            Well bringing the discussion back on point, (I know, I know), how would Wiki predict a flop ahead of time?

            I think it ends up being a bit like Netflix's recommendation system. If you use enough computing power to find even seemingly random correlations, if they hold up for long enough there has to be a common factor somewhere and it can be used to predict with surprising accuracy.

            Of course, the prediction itself will change the end result once companies start using it to alter their own actions.

            It would appear TFA addresses none of this. They don't appear to throw out updates and page views that pre-date the actual release date. The look at AFTER-THE FACT data.

            While it's poorly worded, it looks like they do indeed look at data available during pre-release; wikipedia logging is detailed enough to collect historical pre-release activity after film release so they can look into the past to build their models/look for correlation.

            • If you use enough computing power to find even seemingly random correlations, if they hold up for long enough there has to be a common factor somewhere and it can be used to predict with surprising accuracy.

              They are movie studio. They don't really care if a movie is good or bad. They only care about how much money they made with a movie. Most of a movie's earning are made the first few weeks. So whatmatters to them, basically boils down to "Are many people going to see a movie during its openning week ?".

              Lot of noise online (Wikipedia activity in today's article. Or google activity in a previous article mentionned elsewhere in this thread) is a sign of how much a movie is talked about. The more a movie is talk

              • by Firethorn (177587)

                They are movie studio. They don't really care if a movie is good or bad. They only care about how much money they made with a movie. Most of a movie's earning are made the first few weeks. So whatmatters to them, basically boils down to "Are many people going to see a movie during its openning week ?".

                Note that I carefully stayed away from saying whether the movie was good or bad, or by what metric.

                Lot of noise online (Wikipedia activity in today's article. Or google activity in a previous article mentionned elsewhere in this thread) is a sign of how much a movie is talked about. The more a movie is talked about, the more interest there is about this movie, the more it occupies attention.

                Which is kind of the point of the op of the whole thread. I was making it a bit more generic - feed enough historical data into computers along with the performance of the associated movies and you'll find correlations. If that correlation holds up over time it can be used for prediction. In this case wiki access/edits does indeed make for a measure of the 'buzz' about a movie, which can correlate with the

          • I wouldn't think that this Wikipedia algorithm would have worked on a movie like "Jobs", where it probably had a ton of Wikipedia page views and edits but not that much box office revenue.

            When you have movies that are based off of nerd heroes like Steve Jobs, I'll bet that the Wikipedia editors probably fought tooth and nail to find every plot hole and technical inaccuracy they could find.

            Likewise, I could see the algorithm falsely predicting success of certain Sci Fi and comic book hero movies, for the sam

            • I wouldn't think that this Wikipedia algorithm would have worked on a movie like "Jobs", where it probably had a ton of Wikipedia page views and edits but not that much box office revenue.

              Had wikipedia been as prevalent in 2005 I bet the same thing would have happened with the Firefly movie ('Serenity'). Looks of geek interest, but tanked at the box office.

          • Yes, I thought the same thing, it doesn't tell you anything your not already hearing loud and clear through box office receipts. Also the studios own pre-release screen testing sessions where they test parts or all of the movie on random people would be a much better predictor of financial success. It's just another interesting but unsurprising observation that's been "sexed up" to grab our bored eyeballs.
          • by dywolf (2673597)

            page traffic. same as the same theory posted ~6 months ago about google predicting flops/successes.

        • by sjames (1099)

          The problem for them is that a video game can produce the same effect. but it can do so endlessly from the comfort of home.

          There is also a middle ground. Massively popular movies that everyone has seen and will probably see again. people keep watching them even after the effects start to look dated and we wonder why we were so impressed with them. But still, people watch, and buy the newly digitally enhanced version on [tech of the day]. Some of them have been big enough that just a minor tweak (director's

      • Works for me; I cant wait for Fast and Furious 28: Who Gives A Shit What We Call It Because You'll Watch It Anyway.
        • by unitron (5733)

          Works for me; I cant wait for Fast and Furious 28: Who Gives A Shit What We Call It Because You'll Watch It Anyway.

          Of course the working title is The Fasterest and the Furiousest.

      • Re:Oh great... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by alen (225700) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:35PM (#44660289)

        some of the greatest movies of the 80's were considered crap when they came out. the kids liked them, the kids grew up and now worship them

        the art cycle is
        kids like stuff their parents hate
        its considered crap by important people
        kids grow up and the crap is now art

      • by jxander (2605655)

        True to an extent.

        Strictly formula, by the numbers movies will keep asses in seats for a while, but it's only so long before a real stinker shows up and sinks a franchise for a decade. The Batman and Superman franchises got hit hard with this, and those both have veritable goldmines of source material from which to draw. Smurfs and Chipmunks will be scraping barrel bottom much sooner.

        If studios bank on that sequel every year ... that one bomb can put a long term crimp in their financials.

      • by dywolf (2673597)

        the word they need is "diversify". instead of 1 giant megabudget blockbuster scientifically designed to appeal to all 4 key demographics (and bland as SHIT), how about 6 or 7 medium budget films with various actors and scripts.

        instead of one massive payout (or flop and then ensuing "woe is us, the undustry is dying"), lots of little payouts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Agreed. If this were the case we wouldn't have Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz, Blade Runner, Office Space, Donnie Darko, etc.

      • Re:Oh great... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) <myfirstnameispaul@gmail.com> on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:16PM (#44660113) Homepage Journal
        2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars: Episode IV, The Godfather, and many other films from the late 60s and 70s. The film industry was going through a transition where it needed to expand, so it started taking risks, which included creating the parental ratings system and more experimental films. I find it somewhat ironic that they don't seem to be willing to do a 'sequel' to that more experimental, and ultimately successful, period.
        • Indeed. What we tend to see in industries is a rising trend in experimentation when things become too formulaic. Take video games, for instance. In response to the growing costs and increasingly corporate structure of the industry, we suddenly have indie games becoming a big thing. They're done on a shoestring budget, feature new ideas for game mechanics, and are small enough that they actually can afford to fail while still offering entertainment to a number of people. Even some of the big developers are n

          • by DrYak (748999)

            Yup, probably the next chef d'oeuvre will be coming out of a Indiegogo, Kickstarter or Wreck-a-movie project.

    • And here I was being all pragmatic and equating "flop" with "bad movie". Lest I forget, I live in the land of the stupid where the only thing that matters is making money.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      ... because what we REALLY need is more studios taking LESS chances...

      Some of the greatest movies have been box-office flops.

      Meanwhile, Big Budget Lone Ranger flopping, had Disney watching Universal rake in $800+ M on $70 M Despicable Me 2, a sequel(!)

      Also, Disney buys up Pixar and then rolls out Planes - a soulless little-engine-that-could story wrapped around a cropduster dreaming of being a racer, you didn't need a crystal ball to see Disney would make Pixar movies utterly ordinary, if not below ordinary.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      ... because what we REALLY need is more studios taking LESS chances...

      Some of the greatest movies have been box-office flops.

      Don't worry, the number of page views, etc. will be proportional to the hype generated by the studios.

      This article has put the cart before the horse. They only found a correlation, not the causation.

    • This is actually a great argument to lessen the extent of copyrights. It is supposed to serve to promote the Arts and Sciences. If the studios are not there to make good movies they are in fact, not promoting the arts.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:49PM (#44659879) Homepage Journal

    To know it was not only a flop, but a typical crap-scripted Disney attempt to run another character through the PoTC money making machine.

    Armie Hammer is an idiot, the movie was a stinker, out of control in more ways than budgetary and there was no conspiracy to slag heavily on it - on look at the trailer and you knew

    • Saw the trailer for 10 seconds and said to myself 'O look its Captain Jack in disguise'
      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        I've just watched it out of curiosity, and quite frankly I don't know what to make of it.
        Apparently it's something about a train with a french mime hanging underneath and lots of cowboys?
        I assumed the Lone Ranger of the title referred to some cowboy, but there really a cowboy singled out in the trailer so I guess it refers to the mime?

      • Saw the trailer for 10 seconds and said to myself 'O look its Captain Jack in disguise'

        Saw the trailer for 10 seconds and said to myself 'O look its Edward Scissorhands in disguise'
        Saw the trailer for 10 seconds and said to myself 'O look its Willy Wonka in disguise'
        Saw the trailer for 10 seconds and said to myself 'O look its Mad Hatter in disguise'

        Johnny Depp can't act. He plays the same guy in every single film.

  • A little late (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:51PM (#44659903)

    Once there's a wikipedia article, with content, and page views, the movie's already made. Not releasing at that point, to avoid losing money on a flop, would only cause more money to be lost. Or am I missing something?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Marketing. Many newer movies the marketing is close to double the budget of the production. If you can skip that and just have production cost to cover a direct to DVD release my make more money back then the work of putting it in theaters.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        Marketing. Many newer movies the marketing is close to double the budget of the production. If you can skip that and just have production cost to cover a direct to DVD release my make more money back then the work of putting it in theaters.

        This

        Although when you have an absolute turd like The Cat In The Hat, even marketing can only do so much - at some point it's one-half-staredness gets around faster than a fart in an elevator.

      • Maybe if they put that money into making a good movie instead of trying to trick people into watching a bad movie they wouldn't be having this problem.
        • by iluvcapra (782887)

          Just speaking as somebody that works in the film industry, it's really hard to buy quality, it just sorta happens, and the release schedules are so compressed that a movie is usually out of theaters before it has the word of mouth a "good" movie gets its audience from. I think this is why cable TV is where the "good" stuff is, for the definition of "good" I think you're using.

          It's also difficult to make a "good" movie when we're worried about 50% of our box office coming from the Chinese dub. Chinese peo

          • by Molochi (555357)

            On the flip side, I prefer to watch foreign films subtitled. I feel that I connect with the story more when I hear their words and vocal inflections, connect that with their visual language and read a translation.

            I perfectly OK with Hollywood just making Chinese movies. Pacific Rim would've been a passable film if they'd done in in Japanese and subtitled it in English.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Then lets make pages for movies we would like to see and edit the hell out of them.

    • by s.petry (762400)

      I was thinking this very thing. The only benefit of this I can see is that it would save them from paying bean counters to tally box office revenue.

    • Once there's a wikipedia article, with content, and page views, the movie's already made.

      Maybe they should put up some content before the movie is made. For instance, they could put potential movie ideas on Kickstarter, and get people to pre-pay for tickets. If there is not enough interest, cancel the movie and refund the money. Even better, would be customer input on casting and plot elements. They could pay extra if, and only if, certain actors are in the movie. My daughter would definitely pay extra if Channing Tatum is in star.

    • by Xeno man (1614779)

      And because Wikipedia entries for films are created months—if not years—in advance of a release date, those fluctuating parameters could make possible for a course-correction for a floundering film far in advance of its premiere, according to the study.

      I think the thing you missed was the article attached to the headline.

      Another thing to remember is that movies are not the only medium for sharing a story, many movies are based on existing books and stories. Stories that already have a fan base. The more those fans love a story or characters, the more involved and interested they will be in any movie project.

  • by rsborg (111459) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:55PM (#44659943) Homepage

    I can envision the next Hollywood producer seeing this, and proclaiming that all future productions will outdo each other in each of the relevant wikipedia statistics, even if those million monkey-keystrokes are immediately rolled back by beleaguered wikipedia editors.

    Cargo-cult executive thinking to the rescue!

  • by west (39918) on Friday August 23, 2013 @04:56PM (#44659949)

    By the time they know it's a flop, isn't a bit late? They've already spent pretty much all the money. At best, it might persuade some theaters to *not* show the movie.

    It doesn't really help to find out that the oncoming light in the tunnel is a train 30 seconds earlier than you might have realized otherwise...

    • by medv4380 (1604309)
      There are tricks they can use if they know it's bad. Forgoing the critics is a sign that a movie is bad, but it also puts a stop to early bad press. However, for the tricks to work they have to know early enough to use them, and the people involved usually believe their own hype so much that only really, really bad movies get that treatment. Also, knowing that you have a potential hit that you thought was just going to be mediocre can help redirect funds to get it into more theaters to increase revenue.
      • by roc97007 (608802)

        There are tricks they can use if they know it's bad. Forgoing the critics is a sign that a movie is bad, but it also puts a stop to early bad press. However, for the tricks to work they have to know early enough to use them, and the people involved usually believe their own hype so much that only really, really bad movies get that treatment. Also, knowing that you have a potential hit that you thought was just going to be mediocre can help redirect funds to get it into more theaters to increase revenue.

        Agree with the second point (recognizing a hidden gem and promote it) but I don't think stopping bad press works anymore. I don't remember the name, but just a few years ago, a movie was destroyed, for the first time, by twitter. Initial viewer backlash was intense and went viral, and the film was showing to empty theaters by the second weekend. The phenomenon has only increased since then. Point being, I don't think suppressing professional critics as a strategy to prop up the first weekend works very

    • by Dracos (107777)

      Exactly, none of this will matter much. Studios know when they have shit on their hands; if it stinks enough, they don't allow press screenings. Or they shift the release date to a low traffic month like January.

    • By the time they know it's a flop, isn't a bit late? They've already spent pretty much all the money. At best, it might persuade some theaters to *not* show the movie.

      It doesn't really help to find out that the oncoming light in the tunnel is a train 30 seconds earlier than you might have realized otherwise...

      My thoughts exactly. They say the model works about 1 month before release; which means the cash is already a sunk cost for the studio, Theaters, however, have the advantage of making a later decision on wether to screen, and for how long, a movie. They could conceivably use the data to pass or limit showings of movies predicted to flop. Which, of course, would mean they would have a much smaller box office and hence be a "flop;" reinforcing the "correctness" of the model.

      • by westlake (615356)

        Theaters, however, have the advantage of making a later decision on wether to screen, and for how long, a movie.

        No.

        Bookings are made far in advance. If you want "The Hunger Games" you have to be at the head of the line. You have to make a serious commitment. Sweeten the deal by agreeing to show a studio's second and third tier product.

        • Theaters, however, have the advantage of making a later decision on wether to screen, and for how long, a movie.

          No.

          Bookings are made far in advance. If you want "The Hunger Games" you have to be at the head of the line. You have to make a serious commitment. Sweeten the deal by agreeing to show a studio's second and third tier product.

          Good point. The big guys will have the clout to demand the best dates and deals. Their interests are at odds with the theaters since they typically get a bigger cut of the box at the beginning (Though I understand that is changing) and a theatrical release primes the pump for DVD/VOD/digital sales which can be much more lucrative; while theaters are really in the fast food business and need cheeks in seats drinking soda and eating candy and popcorn. If they could extend the model to a longer predictive peri

    • by EnsilZah (575600)

      Advertising campaigns for movies can cost as much as the production itself.
      I'm not sure how that's distributed over time, but you could probably save some cash on that if you knew a month in advance that's it's going to flop.

  • But by the time these factors are measured, the film has already been made and most of the money spent on it. There's no point predicting THEN whether it will succeed or fail.
    • Have you seen marketing budgets lately? They can easily eclipse the actual production cost.
      • by nayrbn (2704751)
        Couldn't there be some sort of feedback with the number of wiki edits and the amount of advertising done? I mean, you won't get as many edits if you don't do as much advertising.
  • Those four items are obvious measures of audience interest in the movie based on what they are able to see. The number of people looking at its wiki page, the number and intensity of the editors, are all pretty directly proportional to either how many people are interested at all in the film, or how interested they are.

    There are three things to note:
    1) Artificially increasing any of these will not actually increase interest in the movie, except perhaps improving the quality of the page itself (essentially m

  • What good is it to be able to predict if the movie will flop when you have to spend $100 million making the damn thing first! Maybe you could just make the trailer, and see how well its wikipedia page does?

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      What good is it to be able to predict if the movie will flop when you have to spend $100 million making the damn thing first! Maybe you could just make the trailer, and see how well its wikipedia page does?

      I think, because promoting a film is a substantial part of the total expense. I remember hearing somewhere (and can't find the stat at the moment) that John Carter cost upwards of $100M to market on top of its purported $250M budget. I'm sure Disney would like to have saved some of their marketing cost by dumping the turkey earlier.

      • by mosb1000 (710161)

        John Carter cost $250 m to make and brought in $280 m. Even if they spent $100 m to market it, it would have brought in much less if they hadn't marketed it, because no one would have known to go see it. The point is, if you've spent a lot of money to make it, it's really too late not to release it.

        • by roc97007 (608802)

          John Carter cost $250 m to make and brought in $280 m. Even if they spent $100 m to market it, it would have brought in much less if they hadn't marketed it, because no one would have known to go see it. The point is, if you've spent a lot of money to make it, it's really too late not to release it.

          Nevertheless, Disney took a $150M write-down on their taxes due to John Carter. So something doesn't add up.

    • by sjames (1099)

      It can let you save the followup $200 million in marketing. There's no sense kicking a dead whale down the beach.

      • No, because this is after they're spent the marketing money, right up until the moment before the film is released. They're already made the trailers, sent out the posters, put up the billboards, ran the TV, radio and internet ads.

        There isn't a lot of cost involved in leaving those posters on the theatre wall for a few weeks after the movie is released. That's the only money they'd potentially save.

        • by sjames (1099)

          They could still save considerable money on a month's worth of primetime television ads and potentially pull the plug on advertising in the rest of the world.

          It would probably also make them hurry along any licensing deals so the ink can dry before the movie flops. That's not strictly honest, but I doubt it'll stop them.

          • There is a limited amount of prime time tv ad space. They'd be paying for and booking it well in advance of the release date, so they don't get shafted and told to bugger off because there is no room for them.

  • by steveha (103154) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:28PM (#44660215) Homepage

    Studying metrics on how often people edit Wikipedia is interesting, but cannot possibly tell the whole story. Some movies come out of nowhere and succeed.

    For example, the quirky film Napoleon Dynamite [wikipedia.org] became a critical success and made a great deal of money, but you really need to watch it to get it. It has no famous actors, it isn't based on any previous brand, and there would be no reason for anyone to pay attention to it on Wikipedia before it was released.

    I'm pretty sure that the Wikipedia metrics would have predicted that Napoleon Dynamite would be a total flop.

    I remain hopeful that technology will reduce costs so that more really unique movies can be made. The more a studio is spending on a movie, the more the studio wants the movie to be "a sure thing" and thus like every other movie.

    If the movie studios start using Wikipedia metrics to try to predict which movies will succeed, I sure hope they will only do that on big-ticket movies, so there is at least a chance for really new stuff to get made. Otherwise, the really new stuff will have to come from outside of the studios.

  • by CCarrot (1562079) on Friday August 23, 2013 @05:32PM (#44660269)

    I never did understand that...I mean, yeah, the plot, acting and special effects weren't top shelf, but frankly I felt that the same could have been said about Spiderman or Resident Evil: Apocalypse or Signs, all movies that also came out in 2002...in fact, I was so disappointed in Spiderman that I haven't even bothered to see 2 or 3 (is there even a third one now? Bleah, who cares?)

    Basically I found it a fun, light story with a little action, a little (okay, very corny) humour, and a couple of interesting 'background tech' concepts (the body shop, pizza vending machine, cars, even the virtual pool table). The cameos were good, I really loved John Cleese's character as a smartass vehicle AI :) Overall, I wouldn't call it a blockbuster, but it's certainly no Ultraviolet...so why the extreme hate? It's basically Beverly Hills Cop set on the moon, is what the plot and acting felt like to me, and I always liked the BHC movies...

    Meh.

  • I see people hiring people to edit pages-- paying people to have software "view" the pages.

  • As soon as they can predict something, then it will be news.
    Can somebody rename this story to "Wikipedia can correlate box office flops with page edits and views"

  • by hurfy (735314)

    When i looked at the chart in the article it looked to me like it had a hard time predicting the 'flops'.

    Even then it seemed so compressed i am not sure how accurate any of it was.
    If the prediction was $10 million and the dot is at about $40-50 mil, is that a good guess or a bad guess. None of the low end ones looked accurate. Seems to be one with a prediction of $1000 (huh!!!) and a result of $1 mil.

  • This isn't about Wikipedia. It's really about consumer interest. Know what's far better than a giant flop? Measuring consumer interest before you blow the money in the first place. That's why crowd funding is taking off.

    • Measuring consumer interest before you blow the money in the first place. That's why crowd funding is taking off.

      But that process is equally flawed as it doesn't address the basic failing in the industry. Almost every film starts with what someone thinks is a good idea (and ideas, even good ones are ten-a-penny). The difference between a flop and a success isn't the idea, it's how well that idea is converted into a film. You only get an inkling of that when the film has been made and the edits done.

      It makes no difference whether the film (idea) was backed by studio money or crowd-funded money. The possibility of tur

  • by Peter Harris (98662) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @04:27AM (#44662789) Homepage

    Even if it was previously a reliable model, now that it is known it will be gamed relentlessly, skewing the metrics so they don't correspond to the desired indications of success any more.

    It's like a company I heard of who bought 20K facebook likes and then got the grand total of 10 downloads for their mobile app. Facebook likes are a poor indicator at the best of times; we have only about 4000 gained slowly and at great labour, for a 1M download game. But when all they indicate is that you are faking the numbers, it's about as pathetic as it would be to pay people to say they like you in real life.

    All this is going to do is make it harder for the wikipedia editors and reduce the real quality of information about new movies.

  • What this basically says is that audiences have already decided whether or not the movie will be a success before it's been released.

    Think about it, sure a preview is somewhat limited by the film its based on, you'll know the actors, director, maybe the writers and producer. And you might get a very rough idea of the characters and plot, but that's about it.

    Is there any reason why the previews for Evan Almighty couldn't have been as good as the previews for The 40-Year-Old Virgin?

    The film industry is design

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