The Hard Science Behind A Hit Screenplay

May 7, 2013

Credit alanwoo via flickr Creative Commons

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.