Improving productivity in Hollywood with data science: Using emotional arcs of movies to drive product and service innovation in entertainment industries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Apple UK
  • Aston University
  • The Alan Turing Institute
  • University of Surrey


Improving productivity in the entertainment industry is a very challenging task as it heavily depends on generating attractive content for the consumers. The consumer-centric design (putting the consumers at the centre of the content development and production) focuses on ways in which businesses can design customized services and products which accurately reflect consumer preferences. We propose a new framework which allows to use data science to optimize content-generation in entertainment and test this framework for the motion picture industry. We use the natural language processing methodology combined with econometric analysis to explore whether and to what extent emotions shape consumer preferences for media and entertainment content, which, in turn, affect revenue streams. By analyzing 6,174 movie scripts, we generate the emotional trajectory of each motion picture. We then combine the obtained mappings into clusters which represent groupings of consumer emotional journeys. These clusters are then plugged into an econometric model to predict overall success parameters of the movies including box office revenues, viewer satisfaction levels (captured by IMDb ratings), awards, as well as the number of viewers’ and critics’ reviews. We find that emotional arcs in movies can be partitioned into 6 basic shapes. The highest box offices are associated with the Man in a Hole shape which is characterized by an emotional fall followed by an emotional rise. This U-shaped emotional arc results in financially successful movies irrespective of genre and production budget. Implications of this analysis for generating on-demand content and improving productivity in entertainment industries are discussed.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
JournalOperational Research Society. Journal
Early online date2 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Mar 2020


  • sentiment analysis, sentiment mining, productivity, consumer-centric design, entertainment, AI