Box Office Buzz: Does Social Media Data Steal the Show from Model Uncertainty When Forecasting for Hollywood?

Steven Lehrer, Tian Xie

NBER Working Paper No. 22959
Issued in December 2016
NBER Program(s):   TWP

Substantial excitement currently exists in industry regarding the potential of using analytic tools to measure sentiment in social media messages to help predict individual reactions to a new product, including movies. However, the majority of models subsequently used for forecasting exercises do not allow for model uncertainty. Using data on the universe of Twitter messages, we use an algorithm that calculates the sentiment regarding each film prior to, and after its release date via emotional valence to understand whether these opinions affect box office opening and retail movie unit (DVD and Blu-Ray) sales. Our results contrasting eleven different empirical strategies from econometrics and penalization methods indicate that accounting for model uncertainty can lead to large gains in forecast accuracy. While penalization methods do not outperform model averaging on forecast accuracy, evidence indicates they perform just as well at the variable selection stage. Last, incorporating social media data is shown to greatly improve forecast accuracy for box-office opening and retail movie unit sales.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.


Supplementary materials for this paper:

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22959

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Li, He, Liu, Fraumeni, and Zheng w22906 Regional Distribution and Dynamics of Human Capital in China 1985-2014: Education, Urbanization, and Aging of the Population
Mas and Pallais w22708 Valuing Alternative Work Arrangements
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us