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Word of Mouth

The Hard Science Behind A Hit Screenplay

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alanwoo via flickr Creative Commons
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Nate Silver opened the public’s eyes to the power of predictive statistics… now, having already conquered politics, marketing, and social media, data-crunchers are taking on their next big challenge: Hollywood. Brooks Barnes is a media reporter for the New York Times – he recently wrote about Vinny Bruzzese, a statistician and former professor who’s using big data to slice and dice Hollywood screenplays

If Hollywood screenplays don’t get sliced and diced in pre-production, you can practically count on it happening after filming is complete.  Blockbuster season 2013 blasted off last weekend with Iron Man 3 pulling in 174- million dollars domestically.  More impressively, Robert-Downey Jr’s armored hero broke box-office records in China, earning an unprecedented 130-million yuan . Notably, the Chinese version of Iron Man 3  includes several scenes American audiences won’t see… in one of them, a frankly non-essential character named Dr. Wu blurts out, “Tony doesn’t have to do this alone – China can help!” 

That somewhat extraneous line, and other dubious additions to the Chinese version have left some overseas viewers non-plussed…Eric Jou of Kotaku writes that the changes: “undermine the Chinese people’s intelligence and movie savvy.” 

Studios will continue adapting international releases if they think changes will translate into profits… but it may take more than a few lines to make an essentially American superhero an international icon.

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