Twitter has developed the reputation of being able to predict the future -- from box office sales to presidential primary results and even the stock market. But according to researchers at Princeton University, Twitter might not be able to foretell how well films will perform after all.
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A new report called "Why Watching Movie Tweets Won't Tell the Whole Story" found that monitoring tweets related to movies is not a reliable source for what could actually happen at the box office.
The news comes as analysts predict a record-breaking opening weekend for the movie The Hunger Games, based on active chatter about the book-to-film trilogy.
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"We found that data from Twitter -- while valuable for the unprecedented access it provides into the public psyche -- is not necessarily representative of the larger online population, as seen from the results of our studies on ratings computed from movie tweets compared to International Movie Database (IMDB) and Rotten Tomatoes ratings," study co-author and professor of electrical engineering at Princeton University Mung Chiang told Mashable.
Chiang, along with two postdoctoral research associates Soumya Sen and Felix Wong, analyzed about 10 million user tweets with movie keywords from Twitter between February and March 2012 (around Oscar season) and data using machine learning techniques to label tweets based on their temporal context (before, during and after watching a movie) and opinion (positive or negative reviews).
"Twitter users tend to be much more positive in their reviews and comments for films overall," Chiang said. "But they are less positive than IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes reviews for Oscar 'Best film' nominated movies."
In addition to sentiment analysis, it looked at how well certain films performed at the box office via data on IMDB.
"We found that if a movie received high ratings in IMDB -- by over 70% approval -- and a lot of buzz on Twitter, then it usually does well at the box-office in the long run," Sen added. "But otherwise, predicting box-office success is difficult. Movies with a lot of hype on Twitter and low IMDB ratings can be successful or unsuccessful at the box-office. It's harder to predict."
Overall, the study found no clear evidence that shows a direct link between Twitter hype, ratings and box office sales.
"The most surprising finding was that Twitter data may not be representative enough of the total population, so it is somewhat risky to use the site for forecasting," Sen said. "More sophisticated techniques may be needed to understand the applicability of such data sets, such as the metrics we developed to understand the extent of the difference between Twitter users and other online rating side users."
Do you think Twitter can predict big trends? Let us know in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.