In recent years the movie business has used social data to connect with audiences and stepped up its reliance on quantitative data to forecast box office revenues. However, if data represented a person, that individual may get a seat at L.A.’s trendiest restaurant, but would still be seated in the back room. That was the gist of a Tribeca Film Festival Industry Talks panel on Tuesday in New York.

“There are three countervailing forces at play that we need to balance, namely the artistic creative side, technological advances and commercial considerations”, said Jason Kassin, co-founder and CEO of Film Track, a rights management company.

“Navigating the world with data points is different than it was five years ago”, added Eugene Hernandez, Film Society of Lincoln Center‘s director of digital strategy. The biggest change is the use of sentiment analysis to monitor audience reactions, though the benefits appear mixed:

  • Sentiment-based date is broadly used: “Big data has become socialized”, said Bill Livek, vice chairman and CEO of entertainment measurement company Rentrak. Their customers include not only big studios, but also independent studios and distributors across the country.
  • Social media monitoring yields massive, but imprecise data: Sentiment analysis measures movie reviews, ratings and audience comments. As Stacy Spikes, CEO and co-founder of theatrical subscription service MoviePass noted, “Going to the movies now is a communal experience”. Nevertheless, social media data isn’t projectable, the panelists cautioned.
  • Sentiment analysis can point to the right direction, according to Christina Warren, Mashable’s senior tech analyst. “But since monitoring is mostly done by machine, it’s best to use the tool to help target audiences and markets”, she explained. Livek concurred, adding, “A social media database can drive certain activities, but not content creation.”

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