Moneyball Goes to the Movies

Bloomberg Markets magazine has an interesting piece in the current issue on a computer model used by JPMorgan Securities entertainment group to decide which movies to finance and which ones to pass on. While the accepted wisdom in movie production is that “no-one knows anything”, as William Goldman once said, JPM (implicitly) says differently.

JPM argues that too many people in the industry rely on hoary rules and dated aphorisms in making go/no-go decisions about flicks — and there is a better way, one that (shades of Moneyball) combines and integrates all the picayune data out there:

[JP Morgan] measures a film’s potential for success using a database of thousands of movies and a computer program that allows bankers to compare each new film against the financial performance of 200 or more similar movies that have gone before it. JPMorgan’s template of what a successful movie should include weighs such components as the genre, cast, director, budget and target audience against the historical performance of similar films, Miller says. “The movie business on a single picture is volatile,” he says. “Odds are that if you take a slate of 12 to 15 films, it’s almost statistically predictable. It’s quite amazing how predictable it is. You can get it within percentage points of accuracy.”


  1. It is good to see some analytical energy being expended on evaluating movie investments. On the other hand its is kind of lame to see that they rely on historical statistics. Of course a portfolio of films is going to have a more predictible average than a single film. Tens of millions of mutual fund holders can’t be wrong.
    ‘Relevance to prevailing social context’ would seem to be as likely an indicator of potential success as anything. At war? War movies do well. Election year? Political films do well (with half the populace, anyway). Cold War era? How about some rah rah anti-commie schtick?
    Simplistic models suck.

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