Can Wikipedia predict a box office hit?

Researchers in Budapest are "looking for the fingerprints of popularity of a movie" on Wikipedia

Topics: Movies, Research, box office, wikipedia, Statistics, ,

Can Wikipedia predict a box office hit?

Researchers at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics claim that activity on a not-yet-released movie’s Wikipedia page may signal the future box office success of that movie. Physicist Taha Yasseri and his colleagues, Márton Mestyán and János Kertész, have built a mathematical model that analyzes the “activity level of editors and viewers” on a movie’s Wikipedia page and, using data from a roster of 312 movies released in the U.S. in 2010, showed “that the popularity of a movie could be predicted” up to a month in advance.

The Daily Mail summed up their findings:

For the biggest movies in the sample – such as Iron Man 2, Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story 3 and Inception – Wikipedia proved more than 90% accurate, although the researchers admit that their overall success rate was 77%. 

Predictions for less successful movies, such as Never Let Me Go, Animal Kingdom and The Killer Inside Me, varied more widely from what actually happened.

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It makes sense that more activity indicates greater anticipation for a movie–but measuring movement on Wikipedia as a way to determine buzz is an interesting way to make the point. “Results presented above clearly show how simple use of user generated data in a social environment like Wikipedia could enhance our ability to predict the collective reaction of society to a cultural product,” said Yasseri.

Prachi Gupta
Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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