Statistical Analysis of Movie Scripts

Movie clap stickWith hundreds of millions of dollars in production costs, it's no wonder that Hollywood studios worry about whether their movies will be hits or flops. Will the viewers like that particular fight scene or should the studios tweak it to maximize the statistical probability of success? That's where script doctor and statistician Vinny Bruzzese steps in, with the art and magic of script analysis:

For as much as $20,000 per script, Mr. Bruzzese and a team of analysts compare the story structure and genre of a draft script with those of released movies, looking for clues to box-office success. His company, Worldwide Motion Picture Group, also digs into an extensive database of focus group results for similar films and surveys 1,500 potential moviegoers. What do you like? What should be changed?

“Demons in horror movies can target people or be summoned,” Mr. Bruzzese said in a gravelly voice, by way of example. “If it’s a targeting demon, you are likely to have much higher opening-weekend sales than if it’s summoned. So get rid of that Ouija Board scene.”

Bowling scenes tend to pop up in films that fizzle, Mr. Bruzzese, 39, continued. Therefore it is statistically unwise to include one in your script. “A cursed superhero never sells as well as a guardian superhero,” one like Superman who acts as a protector, he added.

His recommendations, delivered in a 20- to 30-page report, might range from minor tightening to substantial rewrites: more people would relate to this character if she had a sympathetic sidekick, for instance.

Critics argue that statistical analysis of movie scripts lead to blander, formulaic movies, but Hollywood studios seem to like them just fine. Brooks Barnes of the New York Times has the story: Link


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