The physics of flix

Author: John Monczunski

A savvy Hollywood movie mogul would be wise to consult Cesar Hidalgo before investing in any film sequels. The Notre Dame physics graduate student and his colleagues have developed a mathematical model that describes the life cycle of a film’s popularity. In the process, it renders a quantitative indicator of a film’s commercial value.

Hidalgo’s equations take into account such parameters as how many people attend the opening of a film, whether they attend alone or in a group, and the rate at which a film loses popularity. In an interview with the Internet e-zine Physics Web, the Notre Dame researcher said he believes the formula for success that he and his colleagues devised could aid movie industry executives in their production decisions.

“At the moment the film industry bases such decisions solely on revenues, but I believe an indicator such as ours would allow the industry to discover hidden markets that could be exploited,” Hidalgo said.

The researchers validated their model by comparing it with the performance of the 44 movies with the largest budgets in 2003. Increasingly, physicists have been turning their analytical tools on human behavior, which, Hidalgo says, “is not as random and unpredictable as people think.”