Dimitrios Mitsinikos, founder of theatrical predictive analytics company Gower Street, explains why his business can confidently act as a GPS for studios and distributors.
The Blondeau Tavern building on the corner of Sunset and Gower Street in Los Angeles was, in 1911, the location of the first Hollywood film studio — the Nestor Film Company, the west coast production arm of New Jersey’s Centaur Film Company. The move had been prompted by a report that revealed Centaur would be more profitable in California, where better weather conditions and many more days of sunshine would enable far more shooting days. The next year it became Universal Pictures.
“This first major piece of analysis practically created the industry as we know it,” says Dimitrios Mitsinikos, who named his pioneering theatrical predictive data company Gower Street Analytics.
Mitsinikos is co-founder and director of the company which, in partnership with global box-office tracking company comScore, has created the risk-assessment system Forecast, which allows international distributors and studios to pinpoint the best release dates for their films. Forecast works by creating simulated box-office reports surrounding any given release date, typically working 12-18 months in advance. A team of UK-based data scientists and film analysts receive market intelligence from an international field of film consultants (including former executives from Universal, Paramount and Senator Films), who analyse the local variables that may impact on a film’s performance in that territory. “It’s the blend of experience and data science that delivers the best results,” says Mitsinikos. “I describe it as more of a GPS than a crystal ball. A system like Forecast is not going to tell you there’s going to be an accident 10 minutes from now, but it’s going to tell you if typically there’s traffic on the M25 on Sunday afternoons.”
Working the schedule
A customer — usually a distributor or studio — requests a confidential simulation based on the theoretical release of a film on a random weekend in any market in the world where they operate and for which comScore has data. (China, Japan and India remain challenging due to quirks in the way each reports its box office, but Mitsinikos is confident they will be in the system by the end of 2019.) Near instantaneously, Forecast creates a simulation of what this release could mean, not just for the title but for the whole market on that weekend using a simple interface that can be read easily on one page of a tablet or smartphone.
“The idea is that no two dates are the same. By being able to model the box office, you’re able to identify which dates are better for specific titles,” Mitsinikos explains. “You also have to take into account parameters from the list calendar, to the holidays, to sports tournaments and so on.”
The executive, who began his career at Nielsen EDI, started developing a version of what became Forecast while he was vice president of international research at Universal Pictures International. He departed in 2015 to set up Gower Street with Universal colleague Matthew Eric Bassett (who left Gower Street in April 2017) and David Kosse, then head of Universal Pictures International. Kosse, now president of STXinternational, remains a non-executive director.
While still working at Universal, Mitsinikos had realised the system would work best when it operated independently of any inevitable, perhaps unconscious, company bias. “A distributor has a very specific view of the market that’s geared to its own titles,” Mitsinikos suggests. “You know a lot about your titles but not as much about every other title that’s being released and that will ultimately impact the performance of your title.
“We realised there was a gap in the market for predictive analytics in the industry,” he continues. “No one else was doing this at the other studios.”
What gives Gower Street a competitive advantage is its partnership with comScore. This provides Forecast with a level of international box-office data — down to cinema level for all titles — that no other studio or distributor likely has. (They may have cinema-level data for their own titles around the world, but not everyone else’s.)
Forecast officially launched in the UK at CineEurope in June. Two studio distributors in the UK have signed up, with others testing the system. It has had a soft launch in Germany, Mexico and Australia, and Mitsinikos hopes to launch in France by CineEurope 2018. By this time next year, Mitsinikos aims to have 20 markets in the system, representing 60% of the global box-office market.
“For people who are initially sceptical of how it works and who prefer to rely on their instincts, I tell them their instincts are essentially algorithms generated by years of experience,” says Mitsinikos. “What we do at Gower Street is to recreate and enhance these ‘instinct’ algorithms mathematically.
“Our industry is very product-driven. Good films are the difference between a good and bad year. And we are now a data-driven society.”