The year is 2020. The machines rose from the ashes of a box office that still found itself down, despite the record breaking efforts of Avengers: Endgame to drive the market upwards. Their skills in moviemaking prognostication have now been drafted by Warner Bros to predict what the next big thing will be, but the final battle would not be fought in the future.
It would be fought here, in our present, as people are undoubtedly going to be making Terminator jokes like the opening you just read. The inspiration being that the very real tech company Cinelytic is becoming a trendy presence in Hollywood at this given moment. Its specialty, as spelled out so comically above, is to use an AI process to help figure out a movie’s potential box office before it even gets the green light.
The basic nuts and bolts of this process comes down to “comprehensive data and analytics,” according to the THR item that announced the deal between Warner Bros and Cinelytic. Though the legacy studio didn’t have a totally horrible 2019, there was enough of a commotion among its releases to warrant looking for another angle.
While Warner Bros did have its fair share of films like Shaft that failed to build any buzz whatsoever, or indie darlings like Blinded By The Light that couldn’t turn critical praise into theatrical moneymaking, the studio did find itself making history with the big ticket grosses Joker brought to its gates.
So engaging in Cinelytic’s services is a wise move for WB at this moment, especially when considering the DC Comics stable of films has been a mixed bag that failed to be the magic bullet Warner Bros was looking for. On the bright side, an AI driven analytic model could presumably report that Aquaman was going to be a hit or that Birds Of Prey should have had some more rewrites before heading to camera.
Of course, even with all of the data in the world, Cinelytic’s model wouldn’t be able to account for one important factor that even the T-1000 could see coming: the human factor. As seen in the Justice League production debacle, or even in the reaction to the various plot twists that serve the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them expansion of the Harry Potter franchise, it’s the behavior of people that’s going to present the ultimate challenge to any AI’s decision making process.
You could predict that a film will do well on paper, only to see it crash and burn at the box office, and not even any of the various incarnations of Sarah Connor could save the soul who takes such a gamble. And while information may point towards certain projects favoring others in greenlight potential, everything will always come down to the living, breathing person who will make the decisions at the end of the day.
It’s certainly a brave new world for studios looking to hedge their bets with projects in the hopper. So we’ll have to wait and see what Cinelytic and Warner Bros’ partnership yields before we contemplate whether or not mini-major studios will have to plot to find their own John Connor to lead them into battle against the machines. Of course, knowing the history of the modern Terminator franchise, that might not be such a good idea.