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The NYU Cinema Research Institute brings together innovators in film and media finance, production, marketing, and distribution to imagine and realize a new future for artist-entrepreneurs. 

The real meaning of "data" in film (a prologue)


The real meaning of "data" in film (a prologue)

Forest Conner


I begin most of my conversations about film these days with one topic in mind: data. As anyone who has read Moneyball will remember, access to data doesn't necessarily make for better decisions. Thus, my research is not just about getting to the data, but making sure that what we get is useable. And we have already seen some larger companies begin to do this.

Google, Apple, and Netflix make strategic and product decisions around their vast data resources. Hollywood studios have largely ignored the proliferation of data analysis, even as several individuals in the industry have made a half step toward increased data transparency. While this makes for interesting reading, what does this mean for an individual filmmaker?

Over the next week, I will be breaking down data by window (theatrical, VOD, online, etc.) and by who currently has access to that data (distributors, exhibitors, filmmakers, etc.) In doing so, I will illustrate the sheer lack of information in the industry in total. Then comes the scary part.

I will show how little of this data, both financial and marketing, trickles down to the individual filmmaker. We should care about two things after a film's release: who saw it and for how much. My next few posts will show just how in-the-dark most of us are.

There are 5 venues I will be discussing: -Theatrical -Physical Media Sales -VOD (both transactional and subscription) -TV (pay TV, cable, network licensing, etc.) -Direct Sales

Each of these exhibition avenues is a different market and poses a different set of problems. As I go through each of these areas, I'm going to treat them with a hacker's eye. I want to see how close much of the traditional system can be replicated piecemeal.

My primary question is: How can one release a film in as many places as possible while maintaining control over both revenue streams and individualized data? And what are the side effects, both positive and negative?

By the end of this week, I hope to have clearly laid out where the industry stands. This will show how far we need to go to get what filmmaker's need to be successful.