Warner Brothers Using AI To Predict Box Office Hits

Warner Brothers recently announced it would use artificial intelligence (AI) to help predict which films will be successful. The new AI platform will let them test profitability outcomes that depend on varying factors such as casting, release date, and distributor.

Warner Brother International has signed a deal with LA company Cinelytic to use their AI project management system. (News.Sky.com)

The forecasting tool was first used in 2019 and offers unique insights to the film industry, according to the company’s website. It claims their platform can predict box office returns using a variety of data. One function allows the user to see how casting various actors in different roles would affect how much money the movie makes.

Cinelytic uses the example of Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman as its demonstration image. It says it uses a trademarked economic scoring system known as TalentScores. It states the system ranks talent by their economic effects across the film industry, including genre, media type, and key territories.

Different film distributors and release dates also can be tried out to see what the results would be.

Cinelytic Was Founded in 2015 by Film Producer and Nasa Employee

The company was co-founded four years ago by film producer Tobias Queisser and ex-NASA employee Dev Sen. The company has been performing tests on its platform for three years.

Queisser, who went to college in London, told the media recently that their system can calculate in a few seconds what it once took days to assess by a person when it comes to evaluating the potential profits of a film, or the worth of having a certain star in a film.

Although the capabilities of the AI platform are substantial, he says it is not meant to be a complete replacement for humans as far as the creative spark that is necessary to make good films. Artificial intelligence is good for performing certain tasks, but AI cannot make creative decisions, Queisser said.

He added that AI is effective at crunching numbers and breaking down large data sets and showing patterns that are not clear to humans. But for the critical creative decision making, you still have to have gut instinct and experience that only humans possess.

When the new partnership was announced, the senior vice president for Warner Brothers, Tonis Kiis, said the company is excited to use Cinelytic’s cutting edge AI system. In the film industry, tough decisions are made every day that affect what and how the company produces and delivers films to theaters across the globe. The more precise the data is, the better the company will be able to engage audiences.

Some AI Experts Are Skeptical

Many experts in artificial intelligence are skeptical that algorithms can make predictions in a business as complex as filmmaking. Because machine learning tools are taught historical data, they are often conservative, focusing on patterns that brought success in the past instead of predicting what would excite audiences in the future. Scientific studies also say that algorithms only produce minor predictive gains. (Theverge.com)

What Cinelytic’s AI System Means for the Future of Film

In a recent interview, Queisser said his software was providing the film industry a Netflix level of insight. He also said the AI system cannot detect the next big film trend, but it collects data in a range. Cinelytic constructs predictive models based on rating, talent, genre and release size. He said they give the system a base scenario, and what should happen. The platform analyzes risk levels to guide users.

Cinelytic has promised the software will not make any impositions on creative types. The founder said that new technology in the film industry is often rejected but the platform does not tell a screenwriter what a good story is. Rather, he has positioned the software as being for bigger film studies, noting that if a film is assembled, the core part of it is known as a package, which is the script. The talent around the film needs to know if the package is worth $20 million $50 million, $100 million or more.

Some film industry professionals wonder if technology should be making decisions that surround creative ones. Queisser stressed that his system would be a tool for film studios, but not the entire decision-making process about a movie. It would work with executives on the decisions they need to make about certain films.

But the history of Hollywood has always leaned in the direction of big studios following popular trends. It is only in recent years that some large studies have broken trends, such as with Joker. That they say that movie would not have happened if their cinematic universe had competing earnings.

In just seven weeks after its release, Avengers: Infinity War brought in $660 million in the US, more than Justice League’s global sales. Insiders say that Queisser’s description of his product does not inspire much confidence that blockbusters in the future will be much different from each other.

Several Movie Studios Plan to Use Cinelytic

The studios that have signed up for Cinelytic are somewhat of a mixed bag. One of them is Ingenius Media with the popular film Wind River, a murder mystery movie with a budget of only $11 million. It had an 88% Rotten Tomatoes score and earnings of $45 million.

Another film company is STX, which had a mediocre 2019 with Playmobil and Uglydolls. The latter had a budget of $45 million and only made $32 million. Some of these studios may be using Cinelytic to recoup some losses by going with safer movies. With Cinelytic, studios should have a better idea of what audiences want to see.

In a recent interview, Queisser said that with the platform’s pattern recognition technology, it is able to see which actor works the best from a data-driven direction. But that does not sound great for diversity in movies.

Some worry that with Cinelytic’s AI guiding companies, executives could push creatives and minorities away in favor of just making money. But the idea that diversity is in opposition to making money is an old idea. Black Panther ranks among the highest-grossing films for Marvel. The hope is that executives will use Cinelytic as a guide but will still allow for creativity and diversity in films to come through.