Big data helps movies predict hits
Technology service provider Paipianbao gained 4,500 cinema subscribers throughout China
Zhang Xiaoming is not a big fan of movies but he can tell which films will be a big hit in China and which will not by using an advanced technology named big data.
“With enough data, many things can be predicted, even the stock market index,” said Zhang, who had around 20 years of experience in data analysis in the United States before heading the big data research center at Zhijiang College of Zhejiang University of Technology in 2011.
In Shaoxing, a city in eastern China’s Zhejiang province where the college is located, Zhang and his 18-member team work on big data solutions that cannot only help producers know which combination of cast can bring more box office sales before shooting, but can also help cinemas make more money by smartly arranging the screening of movies.
“Around 80 percent of the movies produced in China cannot get noticed by cinema managers due to their poor quality. Less than 10 percent of movies can actually make a profit,” said Zhang, adding that it is important to use technology to help producers and cinemas in decisionmaking so that they can maximize their profits.
Zhang, who received his PhD and master’s degree from theMassachusetts Institute of Technology, said by using cinemas’ previous ticketing data, data from the media and the public’s reviews of movies combined with the algorithm they developed, his team can predict the box office and increase the number of moviegoers to cinemas by 10 percent to 15 percent.
He used Hong Kong film director Stephen Chow’s latest movie Mermaid as an example. “The movie was about to release with two other movies during the Spring Festival. All of the three movies seemed equally good by any standards,” Zhang said.
“But one local cinema listened to our advice to use its biggest screening room to showMermaid, and it earned hundreds of thousands of yuan within a week,” he said.
It turned out that the Stephen Chow’s comic fantasy not only beat locally made MonsterHunt andHollywood action movie Furious 7 during the same period, but became the first Chinese movie to reach the new landmark of 3 billion yuan in gross receipts in China.
Launched about 18 months ago, Zhang’s big data service named Paipianbao has gained 4,500 cinema subscribers. China has a total of 7,000 cinemas.
The majority of cinemas hire experienced managers to draw up their screening calendar, deciding which movies will be shown in which room at which time. With Paipianbo, the calendar can be automatically compiled within one minute.
“The service replaces the role of cinema managers to some extent. The most difficult aspect of further expanding our business is how to convince more cinemas to adopt our technology,” he said.
He said that his service has the most accurate projection on box office so far but there are other players which want to replicate his success. “I don’t think their projection can be as accurate as ours. But box office prediction is not a 100-meter race, even if you run faster than your competition by seconds, it doesn’t make a big difference,” he said.
Contact the writers through mengjing@ chinadaily.com.cn