We have been hearing about the role of analytics in business, marketing and IT sector and how it is immensely impacting the trade of such sectors. Operations in most of the industries have become more consumer-centric powered by feedbacks, opinions, and preferences of the customer. In such a rush, it would be unfair to ignore the film industry business. Yes, the data analytics is playing its cards well in that sector too. Considering the fact, the film business is totally dependent on the reviews and preferences of the audience, filmmakers are sneaking into the shelter of analytics to predict box office success across the nation. The strength of data analytics is supporting film professionals squeeze the core of the films and approach a wider audience with common preference.
You must have heard about Actor Rajkumar Rao’s film Shadi Mein Zaroor Aana! Yes, that is the first Indian Bollywood based movie to employ data analytics to its advantage. The study of film’s exclusiveness and identification of target audience was done by a data analytics firm namely Infinite Analytics Nucleus. Akash Bhatia, co-founder of IAN, after film release, had said in an interview with Economics Times “In Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana, there are certain peculiarities about the movie. For example, there is a certain kind of clothing mentioned in the movie. Our platform is able to pick up (via social media) what kind of audience would like that kind of clothing, that color, down to that minute detail.” The trailer of the movie struck one million likes in five days of the release which definitely proves Bhatia’s vision and the idea worked in the business.
Following the trace of number game in the industry, Tollywood also tossed its coin to try luck. Venkatesh Maha directed C/O Kancharapalem with the help of Woodcutter Film Technologies and predicted the 64 percent of film’s success at box office. Woodcutter Film Technology is a data analytics firm that works in association with Ramanaidu Studios in Hyderabad. After the successful prediction of C/O Kancharapalem, the firm worked with a variety of Tollywood films directing marketing game plan with trailers and promotion tactics of them.
Decoding the Number-Game of Box Office
According to an assertion made by IIT graduate and founder of Woodcutter Film Technologies, Bethanavel, data analytics is the striking change for the bright future of Indian movies.
Bethanavel elucidated Our immediate goal is to help film producers and distributors understand the buzz a movie creates among the audience so that decisions on promotion, sales/purchase of rights and distribution can be made. Filmmakers have a very limited understanding of their target audience and data analytics helps them with their assumptions; we help them with descriptive analytics of what the audience like in a movie and what they do not, and predictive analysis which helps movie-makers have an estimate of their box-office success.”
The driving factors to judge the analytics of the movie involves – star value, sentiment generated by film among the target audience, the popularity of film and others. The analysis experts count on to the pre-release sizzle and help the fraternity to design promotion strategies in accordance to that.
Bethanavel illustrated the procedure quoting an example and said “Our team worked on the teaser of the 2017 Bollywood movie Fukrey Returns and our analysis helped the makers a great deal in identifying what the audience liked in the teaser and what they did not. We went down to the minute details of whose screen presence had a better impact on the viewers and how it could be used in the film’s scripting and promotions. We were also able to help them benchmark the buzz of Fukrey Returns with respect to other similar films released around the same time, especially analyze what worked in the teaser for a highly popular film and how that could be emulated in a film at hand.”
Opinions and Working Behind the Nuances of the Box Office Scores
Other than C/O Kancharapalem, the prediction accuracy trajectory for other movies including Taxiwala, Savyasachi, Padi Padi Leche Manasu, Anatriksham, and Amar Akbar Anthony successfully strike the bar of 97 percent, 86 percent, 96 percent, 97 percent, and 97 percent, respectively.
Bethanavel explained “Accuracy can be explained in terms of the collections made on the first day of the movie release,” says Beth, adding, “For example, when Ravi Teja’s Amar Akbar Anthony released, the movie had a collection of Rs 4 crore on the first day and our prediction deviated only 3% from 4 crore, which means we had an accuracy level of 97% in predicting the first day collection for the film. The movie, on the second day, made lesser than Rs 4 crore, and the weekend collections, that is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, were almost close to our figures. We do not predict whether a film would be a flop or a hit, but rather we give the makers the figures for the first weekend. This is because the first weekend is crucial as the run-time of films in theatres have reduced to a great extent after the advent of OTT platforms.”
Preetham Akinenni, a member of the digital team at KWAN, an entertainment and marketing solutions company said “Now, maybe in the past ten years, with multiplexes mushrooming and box-office figures becoming available, data analysts are coming up with patterns that are enabling movie-makers to explore options. One of the primary demands directors of a movie now have is to know the reach of the promotions of the movie. Is it doing as good as a Prabhas or a Mahesh Babu film? Knowing these figures definitely reduces the risk factor involved in a film.”
Further, he added “It’s very rare that you find a movie like C/O Kancharapalem releasing in Tollywood. It was a movie that had no hero and absolutely no star cast. But even before the movie released, it managed to create a good buzz and that was the only element the data analysts could bank on. There was no movie previously made with which Kancharapalem could have been compared. That was one of the reasons why predictions went slightly haywire for the movie.”
Additionally, Venkatesh Maha asserted “But if I am to put myself in the shoes of a producer, numbers do matter. As a director, I would never want my producer to incur losses and that way I would say data analytics is useful in understanding your audience and in planning marketing strategies. But as a director, while making Kancharapalem, I never thought of collections because we believed in our story. More than relying on data, we did our own homework and it was our preview shows and promotions that made the audience come to the theatre and watch an experimental movie like ours.”
Data Analytics often predicts the first week collections of a movie accurately, the ability to forecast lifetime box office gathering still lacks in the system. Bethanavel puts up and argument to the life expectancy of prediction and said “In the case of Kancharapalem, we missed the mark on the first day of the movie. But our predictions came true on the following days as word of mouth spread and more people came into the theatres to watch the movie. C/O Kancharapalem, in fact, turned out to be one of the most successful movies of 2018… Content is very subjective. We shouldn’t confuse data analytics as a technology that would produce better scripts. It helps movie-makers to understand what the audience likes the most in a movie and what they hate. Making movies according to the preferences of the audience doesn’t necessarily ensure good content.”
Talking about Woodcutter Film Technologies, it currently helps movies beginning from their post-production activities but they are hopeful to introduce analytics at the time of embracement of the script in near future. According to Woodcutter organization’s Founder, the team of the firm awaits to intervene facial expression analysis while watching the movie and utilize them while creating the next project.
Bethanavel said “We believe that art is something that cannot be taken over by AI (yet). But every script writer understands how storytelling is actually a science that needs to have a structure. It still requires the best of human creativity for great stories to come out. This is where AI can be quite handy – by being a tool in helping the writers to get the fundamentals of storytelling right. We can analyze movies and tell scriptwriters what are the best scripts in the past 10 years that have worked well in the box-office and what haven’t. A set pattern can help writers to know the pulse for their audience.”
Further, he claimed “We believe applications of AI can extend to other forms of content creation as well– generating stories for advertisements, magazines, blogs, etc. AI can actually evolve into a story generating tool. When this change happens, Woodcutter would be at the forefront driving it.”