by Sneha Jha

Analytics Plays Hero at The Box Office

Jul 28, 20144 mins

IBM’s advanced analytics helps Bollywood film makers predict beforehand the outcome of their upcoming movies. 

With its rib tickling comedies, heart wrenching plots, riveting crime thrillers, happy family sagas and do-gooder superheroes, Bollywood takes the center stage in India. Film makers in India, pull out all the stops to promote their movies. Despite the most aggressive efforts to whip up a pre-release frenzy, the film makers can’t say with a sense of surety if they’ve been able to kindle the interest of the audience.

But now, IBM has decided to decode the mantra of box office success with an innovative blend of advanced analytics and Social Sentiment Index. IBM has applied advanced analytics software and natural language processing to various Bollywood blockbusters in its latest IBM Social Sentiment Index (SSI) to predict the box office prospects of films by genre.  

The software vendor attempts the SSI methodology on Bollywood by applying a three-pronged approach including mathematical and probability modelling as well as machine learning. These models highlight popular opinions of movie-goers on specific genres of cinema along with factors that influence their opinions.

Raman Kalra, head-Media & Entertainment and executive director and partner, Telecom at IBM Global Business Services, India/SA said, “We applied the science of predictive analytics and tried to put some method to madness for monetizing the movie business. We chose some movies and analysed their box office prospects on multiple databases and different social platforms. The whole focus was on reading and defining certain parameters and levers which help precisely predict the success factor at the box office in a much more defined manner.”

The numbers play an important role in the analysis. The SSI data revealed that a film with a political flavor stands a stronger chance of faring well at the box office with 75 percent confidence. Remakes and a star director further boost the box office prospects of a film with 63 percent confidence. Action movies in particular if handled by a star director have 61 percent chances of grabbing more eyeballs.

Similarly, SSI indicates, with 69 percent confidence, that a comedy movie will be hugely popular. Music and choreography too play a critical role in the making of a block buster.

In addition, high budget films generated 62 percent more buzz than low budget films. However, over the last two years they have also generated a higher proportion of negative sentiments clearly indicating the fast growing liking for experimenting with multiple theme low budget films.

With the Bollywood movie Ramleela came the high point of SSI. IBM applied the SSI methodology to predict Ramleela’s box office verdict. “We foretold with 73 percent confidence based on the predictive model that the movie will have a strong opening,” said Kalra.

According to the analysis, Ramleela had all the ingredients that would fetch box office numbers. For instance, the physiological stimulus of Ramleela viewers indicated that 90 percent of the audience was wooed by the glamour of the star cast. Star director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, notched up 82 percent success quotient, the choreography and set design captured the attention of 66 percent of cine buffs and the music hit the right notes with 79 percent success.

But will the forthcoming Bollywood releases follow in the footsteps of Ramleela to anticipate their fate at the box office? Kalra is optimistic that film makers will warm up to the idea of employing SSI to get rich paybacks from their movies. “We have been talking to a lot of people in the film industry. They are quite enthused about this approach. The scientific and analytics driven decision making can help them improve their films. With the information, film-makers can take a pause, re- edit some portions of the movie, arrive at decision on the distribution, craft a meaningful release strategy and develop a sharp focus on the target audience segment,” Kalra said.

However, it remains to be seen if the dream weavers of Bollywood will combine the magic of cinema and cutting edge technology to set cash registers ringing at the box office.