For many, the moviegoing experience is one that brings about an unexplainable euphoria. Maybe it’s the smell of the warm buttery popcorn or the feeling of the comfy leather seats beneath you (bonus points if they recline!). One thing for sure is that when the lights dim and the curtains open ever so slightly, you can expect to be captured into a world outside of reality, even if only for a few hours. The question is whether or not that experience is by luck or by strategy.
Filmmaking is an inherently creative process, a fact that needs to be deeply appreciated and remain unwavering. However, it cannot be denied that filmmaking is also a business, one that aims to profit and prevail like any other. As a result, many companies rely on data to drive their process, some from the very beginning of the screenwriting phase and others all the way down to marketing and promotion after the film has been made. Through technologies like social media, movie/ticket websites, and other digital applications, film companies are able to track the content users are interested in, their conversations and sentiments about their experiences, purchasing habits, etc. and use that to inform their approach to “selling” the movie. For example, a writer may use data analytics to inform the direction of a storyline for a beloved character based on the conversations fans are having about that character online. Often referred to as “fan service”, this would ensure that more people will come out to watch the movie because they already know what to expect and are excited to see watch it unfold. In other instances, a company might use collected data such as ticket sales and audience demographics from previous/similar films to determine the target audience for the marketing campaign on the next film. However, it doesn’t stop there. In time, production companies may be able to inform other key factors like budgets, casts and crew, or equipment needed based on data they’ve collected.
While big data is still finding its place in the film and entertainment world, there’s no doubt of the potential impact it could make on the industry, especially since digital platforms are starting to play a much bigger role in a movie’s success. Look at franchises like Marvel and Lucasfilm, or even TV projects like Emily in Paris and Squid Games, for example. One thing these all have in common is that much of the hype and recognition they’ve received has come from social media where consumers have taken on the role as advocates. Sure traditional marketing tactics may play a role as well, but the conversations being facilitated online by audiences is a powerful tool and there is a lot of data that can be extracted from these interactions which could then be key in determining what’s going to be a hit and what’s going to be a box office bomb.
So the next time you sit in a theatre, ask yourself what brought you there. You may be there for the pure joy of the moment, but truthfully, whether you were enticed by an ad on TV or an amateur review on Twitter, big data influenced you into buying that specific ticket.