And best director goes to… AI?

Warner Bros. acquired a startup called Cinelytic that claims to forecast movies’ success with audiences.


January 12, 2020

When cash and ego are on the line, a box-office bomb is a true catastrophe. 

In an effort to ensure films’ profitability, Warner Bros. acquired the startup Cinelytic, which uses AI to predict which creative variables will lead to box-office success. It’s like fantasy football… but can it work?

Nobody wants to be the next Cats

That’s where Cinelytic’s machine learning program might help. The algorithm examines data sets to pinpoint which factors contribute to commercial success. For example:

Would it make sense to 86 Leo and sub in Zac Efron to appeal to the under-25s?

How would that affect box-office revenues in Europe?

I minored in film studies, and THIS IS NOT ART

Chill, baby. Cinelytic CEO Tobias Queisser says AI’s purpose is to find patterns that might not be immediately apparent to humans. “But for creative decision-making, you still need experience and gut instinct,” he told The Hollywood Reporter

Many experts have expressed doubt about the algorithms’ ability to predict success in a complicated craft. Among their concerns:

  • Machine learning relies on historical data, so its insight could overlook important new information.
  • Algorithms may be limited to predictive gains, which produce tidbits like “Scarlett Johansson is a bankable film star.” No doy.

Still, these tools can churn out analyses faster than our little brains can, which helps in high-stakes situations like film festivals, where bidding battles for distribution rights require studios to act quickly. 

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