Want boffo box office? Follow the formula

Attention aspiring film producer and directors: The field of psychology has distilled the formula for cinematic success.

Dean K. Simonton of the University of California Davis' department of psychology has applied the most powerful tools of statistical science to thousands of feature-length English-language films and will unveil his detailed findings this Friday at the American Psychological Assn.'s annual confab in San Francisco.

But here's the advance dish: The formula, not surprisingly, is different depending on your aims: If you're determined to capture the hearts and minds of Academy members and film critics, you'll follow a different recipe than if your aim is to maximize the box-office returns.

To boost the probability of winning critical acclaim, you'll likely need to get an R-rating for the film, and it should be based on a prize-winning book or play that's rooted in a true story. You'll want to involve the original author or the director in the screenwriting process, and you'll need to commission an excellent score.

But don't stress if none of the featured music moves up the charts; that won't be necessary.

Going for the big bucks? OK, round up the big-money guys, because this is gonna cost you. Big-budgets are no assurance of big returns, but they do seem to make the big pay-out more likely. Go for that sequel or remake, but keep the violence, sex and profanity within the PG-13 range. And let's talk distribution: You'll want it to open on numerous screens, probably in the summer.

Also, if you don't make big money the first weekend the movie opens, you're likely to be DEAD. So pump up that advertising budget.

Sure, you may have known all that. But was it gut instinct that told you so, or was it Pearson product-moment coefficients and hierarchical regression analyses?

If you're pinning your future status in Hollywood on the first, your creative department needs better tools.

-- Melissa Healy

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World