Twitter used to forecast box office success

Twitter can be used to give accurate predictions of movie takings, according to HP researchers.

The team looked at nearly three million tweets about 25 different movies, including Avatar, Twilight:New Moon and The Crazies. They found that the raw number of tweets about each one accurately predicted box office takings for the first week of release.

Analyzing the content of messages through sentiment analysis – splitting tweets into positive, negative and neutral categories – gave an accurate measure of how well the movie did thereafter.

“Our predictions are consistently better than those produced by an information market such as the Hollywood Stock Exchange, the gold standard in the industry,” say Sitaram Asur and Bernardo A Huberman of HP’s Social Media Lab in their report.

The researchers predicted, for example, that zombie movie The Crazies would take $18.8 million in its first weekend. The actual figure was $16.06 million.

“The movie Transylmania that opened on December 4th had easily the lowest tweet-rates of all movies considered. For the week prior to its release, it received on an average 2.75 tweets per hour. As a result of this lack of attention, the movie captured the record for the lowest-grossing opening for a movie playing at over 1,000 sites, making only $263,941 in its opening weekend, and was subsequently pulled from theaters at the end of the second week,” they say.

“On the other end of the spectrum, two movies that made big splashes in their opening weekends, Twilight:New Moon (making $142 million) and Avatar (making $77 million) had, for their pre-release week, averages of 1365.8 and 1212.8 tweets per hour respectively.”

They reckon the technique could be used more widely, for example to redict product sales or the outcome of elections.