Is Twitter the Film Industry’s Crystal Ball?

Facebook and Twitter might be great for sharing news and views with friends, but social networks aren’t so good at predicting the future. A Princeton University study led by Felix Ming Fai Wong found that the idea that Twitter trends could predict stock markets and box office revenues is not completely true.

The study was done by collecting 1.7 million film-related tweets during this year’s Oscar season, from February 2 to March 12, sorting out irrelevant references and then using the remaining tweets to measuring public opinion.

The researchers divided the 140-letter reviews into positive and negative comments (even weeding out comments that may have been made by a person without watching the movie) and compared those to reviews from the Internet Movie Database and

They found that not only do Twitter reviews differ significantly from those on review websites, but also that positive reviews for a film didn’t always mean it went on to do good business. “Marketers need to be careful about drawing conclusions regarding the net box-office outcome for a movie,” Wong’s report said.

However, Wong did find something that might help the marketing honchos at the biggest studios — Dreamworks (NASDAQ:DWA), 20th Century Fox (NASDAQ:NWSA), and Universal Studios (NASDAQ:CMCSA), to name a few. More Twitter reviews tend to be positive rather than negative. “Instead of focusing on reducing the negative reviews from a few dissatisfied customers, it may be better to focus on enhancing the already high proportion of positive reviews on online social networks and use virality effects to influence consumers,” the report said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aabha Rathee at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at