Big data: Beyond the box office


Just because a movie does well at the box office on its opening weekend doesn't mean it was a critical success. Thanks to big data and the perfecting of sentiment analysis of social media, box office receipts don't tell the whole story.

The USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and IBM (NYSE:IBM) teamed up to apply big data analytics and something called the Social Sentiment Index to moviegoers' social interactions over the Thanksgiving weekend to determine their reaction to various films.

The Social Sentiment Index was developed by IBM and uses analytics and natural language processing technologies to tap into the social media buzz and decipher consumer preferences, market trends and brand awareness. It can distinguish between sarcasm and sincerity, and applies machine learning to identify which social media commentary is important--and which is just background noise.

USC and IBM claim they were able to capture the nuance between a negative sentiment and one that expressed negative feelings that were not about the movie as a whole, but, in the case of the vampire series finale of "Twilight," about the movie being the final installation of the series.

The new benefit this brings to movie studios is the ability to change marketing tactics if necessary in almost real time, and either capitalize on a trend or squash one. They also will know how to better market the movie in its DVD release.

Professor Jonathan Taplin, director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab, called his organization a "think-and-do tank," a digital lab where corporations can come together to think about solutions for the next three-to-five years in the media sphere and how to provide new tools for understanding social networks, participatory culture and how to make cities and other polities work better.

USC's Annenberg Innovation Lab and IBM first applied their tools to the movie industry's Academy Awards earlier this year. Taplin said, "It was like having a million-person focus group."

For your reference, "Skyfall," "Wreck-it Ralph," "Rise of the Guardians," "Life of Pi" and "Red Dawn" all got 90 percent or more positive feedback. "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2" only got 75 percent. Compare that to the Tomatometer after you've seen your choice of show.

For more:
- see the Annenberg Innovation Lab site

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