If you turned to Wikipedia for a pre-Avengers deep dive into the Marvel canon or refresher on Harry Potter’s defenses against the dark arts, you are apparently not alone. What’s more, your digital breadcrumbs might be a preview of coming box-office receipts. A team of researchers has shown that Wikipedia data can predict how popular a film will be.
A team from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics looked at 312 movies that came out in 2010 (think Inception, Toy Story 3 and Twilight: Eclipse) and built a mathematical model that measured the number of readers and editors for the movie’s Wiki page. The model’s data was juxtaposed with box office earnings and showed almost a 77 percent correlation between popularity on Wikipedia and big opening weekends.
Not sure if we need a complicated math model to understand this though. It’s pretty obvious that movies who have the most rabid fan bases are the ones sitting in front of Wikipedia making sure that everything is accurate. After all, having a stubborn commitment to accuracy is one of the cornerstones of nerd culture.
Nerds are a good explanation for the number of editors that popular movies have, but what about the readers? They’re probably the movie geeks who like to turn to their friends in an Iron Man premier and whisper “Pssst, did you know Robert Downey Jr. has performed on six soundtracks?” Or they might be the impatient people who need to spoil movies for themselves before they even get in line for popcorn.
Avatar, the highest grossing movie of all time, has a section of its Wikipedia page dedicated to postage stamps. Need we say more?