Twitter: Hollywood’s new crystal ball?

Just read an interesting article the other day which I found via… what else, Twitter. Some of you probably have read it as it’s all abuzz all over social media blogs and news sites about this new finding that Twitter is apparently a killer tool to predict a movie’s success. Two researchers at HP Labs, Sitaram Asur and Bernardo Huberman extracted 2.89 million tweets referring to 24 different movies released over a period of three months, and they considered only wide-releases that opens on a Friday. Though I’m not terribly surprised by this, the stat is still pretty staggering: 97.3% accuracy in predicting opening weekend box office, outperforming the gold standard the Hollywood Stock Exchange, which has 96.5% accuracy. It’s amazing given that Twitter is less than 5 years old (launched July 13, 2006), and even with 23 million Twitterers and counting as of last January, its popularity probably hasn’t peaked yet.

You can read the entire research paper (pdf), it’s fascinating stuff though it’s highly technical, all the graphs, numbers and scientific formula stuff makes my head hurts. Castor, you surely will love all those colorful charts though 🙂

Now, I’ve been using Twitter for almost a year now, just before I started this blog, and I must say I use it a lot! Besides being a blogging publishing tool to increase traffic to my blog, I also get my news feed from it, movies or otherwise. I’ve also contribute in generating buzz for certain flicks I’m passionate about, whether it’s commenting on a trailer or throw a quip about it once I’m done watching a certain flick, sometimes even tweeting the person involved with the movie directly (i.e. Law Abiding Citizen director F. Gary Gray). I’ve also ‘discussed’ certain movies or actors on Twitter, as I do occasionally with Fencerdiva (yes, The Jury is indeed powerful stuff) and thanks to RottenTomatoes’ tweets, I don’t have to saunter over to their site to know whether a movie is rotten or fresh. It’s probably safe to say, based on what I’ve been reading on Twitter, the comic-book action-comedy Kick-Ass will kick Date Night off the top spot this weekend.

I guess it’s inevitable that social media has changed the way the movie advertising process works. Marc at Go-See-Talk recently pondered whether viral marketing campaign (which includes, but not limited to, Facebook, Youtube, and of course Twitter) plays a key role in a movie’s success. I think the answer to that is YES, but how much of an influence obviously depends on the movie and its target audience. It’s more likely to be a much bigger factor for younger folks, as the Twitter research found out about Twilight‘s success. Certain movies and the popularity of a director/actor still plays a huge factor, too. I know I’ve made up my mind about certain flicks, such as Inception, so any viral marketing is only going to boost my anticipation and I’m less likely to be swayed by what the critics say.

So what do you think about this finding, folks? Do you use Twitter a lot in general or specifically when it comes to choosing which movies to watch?