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PreAct – Hollywood’s Secret Weapon for Predicting the Box Office


Knowing elements of filmmaking like story structure or cinematography are crucial to understanding the art. To understand the business, it’s important to know how and why Hollywood makes decisions. Sure, there’s market testing and tracking. But nothing is being more widely used nowadays than PreAct.

In MINORITY REPORT, Precogs could predict crimes before they took place. In Hollywood, PreAct has the chance to save would-be box office bombs before they happen. PreAct monitors the marketing of movies on social networks like Twitter. It records all of the responses for a marketing campaign. It measures the frequency that the film is being talked about and whether the talk is positive or negative. PreAct then computes a score for the film by using all of the collected information and comparing it to past films that it has tracked. PreAct ranks on a scale of 1-100 and typically tracks a film for one year. 


An entertainment data company called Rentrak created the program in 2013. (Click here for press release).   A December article in The NY Times stated that PreAct clients include 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures Entertainment. 

Last summer’s box office provided a test-run for PreAct. Of 2014’s five summer comedies, the biggest winners at the box office were the ones that won the Internet. Neighbors never had a score below 90 on PreAct’s scale and carried a score of 98 the day it opened, which translated to a $51.1 million opening weekend. On the other hand, Blended had a score of 31 and Sex Tape had a score of 30. Both were box office bombs. 

This is how studios are now measuring box office potential. Social data is informing the creative process and being used to gauge audience demand. PreAct could change release platforms and marketing campaigns. It could affect what gets green-lit and what gets put into turnaround. 

Is PreAct a good thing? Minority Report served as a eminder to never overlook the value of human judgment. But in a world increasingly reliant on numbers, it appears PreAct is poised to make a lasting impact.

Check it out here.


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