Reel-time analysis projects big hitters

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Have you ever wondered what makes a film a hit or not? Steve Jasmine, a former banker in corporate treasury and risk management at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, believes he has identified box-office hit criteria that he is hoping will aid the film finance community in better selecting their slate investments. Having spent the past three years watching and re-watching movies, Jasmine, via his new company, Causation Creation, has identified 800 criteria that go into creating a $1 billion-plus grossing movie. Star Wars scores 100% on his testing, and Gone With the Wind, Titanic, Avatar, ET, The Godfather and Grease all get 96% and above.

Among his score factors are marketing efforts, visual appeal, production, audience selection, structure and background. Jasmine says characters and the lesson learned in films are also key indicators. "Heroes that start as nobodies are always high scorers. Take Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Frodo, Elliot in ET as examples. Films where the hero is already a strong character from the beginning will not do as well." Jasmine points to Shia LeBoeuf’s character in Wall Street 2. "He’s already a confident investment banker on Wall Street." Other appealing characters, says Jasmine, are the cold-hearted but loyal companion such as Princess Leia; the not-so-smart but warrior companion, such as Han Solo or Hagrid, and the fearful friend, C3PO, Hermione Granger. "Think Wizard of Oz," says Jasmine, "and the tin man, lion and scarecrow." Villains are also crucial. "Gordon Gekko in his post-prison life was too weak a villain, if he was even the villain," he adds.

Other than a producer claiming "this will be a great movie", film financiers have no analysis tools on how to predict a box-office hit. Jasmine is hoping his criteria will change this, but it will be hard to convince Hollywood, he says. "Next year’s movies, Tangled, Suckerpunch and the Green Hornet, will not earn their genre potential. But try telling Hollywood they’re wrong. It’s not an easy battle."