Thursday, 22 May 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #100: Analyze This?

This is my 100th edition of Hollywood Babble On & On, and I'd like to dedicate it to something about Hollywood that tends to get on my one good nerve....
It's summer blockbuster time, a time when big budget popcorn films fill the screens with over the top action, special effects, and comic book franchises galore.

It's also the time when box office analysts and their predictions seem to rule supreme.

And that's what pisses me off.

You see the press seems to treat these predictions as if they're the products of big-brained super intellects using hard rock solid mathematical formulas to accurately forecast a movie's performance the way that geek on NUMB3RS solves crimes, and give me a cheap excuse to post a picture of comely co-star Navi Rawat.

However the whole thing isn't as scientific as they'd like you to think, and sometimes you'd be better off shaking a magic 8 ball than to rely on the words of "experts."

have three beefs with the predictions made by "expert box-office analysts."

1. Transparency, or to be more exact, the lack thereof. We don't know their motives, or the criteria they use for these predictions. Are
their predictions being used to hype a film beyond its basic audience appeal, putting the proverbial lipstick on the proverbial pig, or are they just making a good faith guess because....

2. The media takes these forecasts as rock solid prophecy and are shocked! shocked! when they are often found to be way off. They also often don't acknowledge who these analysts work for.

3. And this is what really bugs me. If the analysts prophesy that a given film will make $100,000,000 on its opening weekend and the film ends up making $99,999,999.99, it's declared a failure.

All I can say is what the hell?

We're basically talking about the art of educated guessing, if that, because you never know the complex,
Byzantine, and often perverse motivations that lay behind these forecasts.

You don't know if the studio wants to hype a looming disaster as the next big thing, or if they want to make a real blockbuster look like a disappointment, because
acknowledging its success would mean paying off actual gross points.

It sort of reminds me of the mathematician who challenged top Wall Street analysts to take on a monkey at a game of picking stocks. The winner would be the one with the most profitable stock portfolio.

The monkey won. Repeatedly.

Now I'm not saying that we should eliminate the position of box-office analyst, and replace them with intellectual chimps. Though it might reduce the amount of feces being tossed in Hollywood, I don't want anyone to lose their job.

What I am advocating is a certain amount of real transparency and relatively objective scientific method to box-office analysis. Because the way it is now, it's nothing more than a cog in the hype machine, and people are starting to notice.

Then they might actually be right more often.
Now I'm off to go party like it's HBO&O #99!

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