Will Smith take note: Google claims to know which Hollywood films will flop four weeks before their release

The web giant claims trawling search data can predict box office success with 94 per cent accuracy

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The Independent Culture

As Will Smith has learned this week, predicting the box office performance of big Hollywood releases has never been an exact science.

The 44-year-old actor's latest film, After Earth - a futuristic action-adventure co-starring his 14-year-old son Jaden - garnered a disappointing $27.5 million (£17.7 million) over its opening weekend.

Next time, he might consider seeking help from Google's analysts, who claim they can use search data to divine the success of movies, up to four weeks before release.

In a blog post, Andrea Chen, the web giant's top analyst for media and entertainment, announced results of a study it calls "Quantifying Movie Magic with Google Search."

Google looks at search volume for a film's trailer, and factors in other information, like prestige and the time of year, and can predict opening weekend box office revenue with 94 percent accuracy four weeks before release, Chen boasts.

And one week ahead of release, Google uses search volume for the film's name rather than its trailer and combines it with data such as theater counts in order to make a prediction that is 92 per cent accurate.

Chen wrote: "In the seven-day window prior to a film's release date, if a film receives 250,000 search queries more than a similar film, the film with more queries is likely to perform up to $4.3 million (£2.8 million) better during opening weekend.

"When looking at search ad click volume, if a film has 20,000 more paid clicks than a similar film, it is expected to bring in up to $7.5 million (£4.8 million) more during opening weekend."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Google insiders say the prediction method coud be used by film studios to better market their films. Google doesn't plan on selling its data, but sharing it with clients, they say.

The study used data collected on last year's 99 top films. The final report said: "On average, moviegoers consult 13 sources before they make a decision about what movie to see.

"This active research and engagement is reflected in search query volume as well. Although the number of titles released declined 9 percent in 2012 vs. 2011, movie searches on Google are up 56 per cent in this same period."