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Google Search Data Can Now Predict Box Office Success


The tech company has said that it can predict the opening weekend gross of a new film with 94% accuracy.

Yesterday, a post on Google Inc's (NASDAQ:GOOG) blog by the company's principal industry analyst Andrea Chen announced the results of a new study, "Quantifying Movie Magic With Google Search." The essence of the results is that Google found it can use search volume to predict the success of a movie opening, from as far out as four weeks.

How does it work?

Beginning at the four-week mark, Google's model considers search volume for the film's trailer, also factoring in context such as time of year and whether or not the film is part of a franchise. At this point, Chen claims the process has 94% accuracy. Within one week of the opening, the search engine stops using trailer searches in its model, and instead measures search volume for the film's title, adding in data on the number of screens on which the film will debut. At this point, the process is supposedly 92% accurate. Google has another process that can supposedly predict a film's second weekend box office with 90% accuracy.

For movie studios, Google's prediction modeling could help improve the marketing of new films. For moviegoers, it could provide another source, beyond reviews and word of mouth, that helps them decide whether to see the movie or not (though it's unclear whether a big prediction for box office gross would entice even more audience members). Google has said it will not sell the new data, but will share it openly with clients.

This weekend, opening films include the Ethan Hawke horror-thriller The Purge from Universal Pictures (NASDAQ:CMCSA), Joss Whedon's low-budget Much Ado About Nothing from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (NYSE:LGF), and the Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson comedy The Internship from 20th Century Fox (NASDAQ:NWSA).

Who will win the box office? Researchers at Google already know.

(Also see: Google Has Never Looked Lamer Thanks to 'The Internship.')

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
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