Math, Money and Movies

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What is the logic of the release strategy of The Gray Man (Audience Score 89%!  Seriously? The first half was fun, I admit, but then, it just got out-of-hand, super silly, even by the standards of this genre)? Indeed (from the NYTimes article):

“The Gray Man,” which opened in select theaters this weekend and will be available on Netflix on Friday, is the streaming service’s most expensive film and perhaps its biggest gamble as it tries to create a spy franchise in the mold of James Bond or “Mission Impossible.”

“The Gray Man” is coming out in 450 theaters. That’s a far cry from the 2,000 or so that a typical big-budget release would appear in on its opening weekend. And the film’s nearly simultaneous availability on Netflix ensures that most viewers will watch it on the service. Films that Netflix releases in theaters typically leave them much faster than movies from traditional studios.

Of course, I saw it in a theater (on opening day). 😏

As you know, we – Franco, Tim and I – have been studying this very issue (using Structural Estimation, as I previously mention in Loki, Lupin and In the Heights):

What is the optimal timing gap between Theater and Streaming release for a movie?

And, how does the optimal gap change if the primary goal is instead to

 increase future revenues from streaming rather than just maximize the revenue (across theater and streaming) of just this one movie?

We have detailed data (weekly box-office revenues, advertising budget, production budget, weekly IMDb ratings, Directors/actors, VOD, rentals and so on) from 321 movies (from 2018) and 911 movies (since 2014). 

Stay tuned for our results that Franco will present at INFORMS Annual Conference in October!

And, don’t even get me started on Where the Crawdads Sing. Here are excerpts from the WSJ review:

As Kya, however, the English actress Daisy Edgar-Jones (“Normal People”) is laughably inept. Kya’s journey to outsize success is so easy that, like everything else in the movie, it’s impossible to take seriously…Detached from the lush nature writing in the book, the story’s plot beats stand exposed as bland contrivances familiar from a thousand romance novels about plucky, adorable damsels versus snaky and duplicitous men. “Crawdads” doesn’t sing. It croaks.

Even the NYTimes review that managed to keep a lot of self-control through out could not resist closing with:

But for a story about sex, murder, family secrets and class resentments, the temperature is awfully mild, as if a Tennessee Williams play had been sent to Nicholas Sparks for a rewrite.

Surprised that no reviews mentioned:

Nell is a 1994 American drama film. The film stars Jodie Foster (who also produced) as Nell Kellty, a young woman who has to face other people for the first time after being raised by her mother in an isolated cabin. It was a box office success grossing over $106 million worldwide, on a $24.5 million production budget. Foster’s performance was widely praised and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

My favorite movie with Jodie Foster is:

The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American psychological horror film. It stars Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee who is hunting a serial killer. It grossed $272.7 million worldwide on a $19 million budget. It won Academy Awards in five categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

So, was there any good news related to movies this past weekend? Yes! Here it is (also recall Top Fun):

Hope all is well. We just learned that “WBCN and The American Revolution,” the companion book to the documentary on MIT Press has just won a New England Book Award. Other winners of the 11 book awards being given include Sherry Turkle and Alexander Nemerov.

The award is over a century old and recognize books of merit that celebrate New England and its culture. Previous recipients include Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louis Auchincloss, William F. Buckley, Jr., David McCullough, and Dominick Dunne. The award will be given at a ceremony in NYC in September. This is the third award won by the book.

All the best, BL

Well done Bill!



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