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Exhibs eye computer program

Academics help theater owners sked pics

TORONTO — Three academics from Canada, the U.S. and India have designed a computer program to help theater managers choose and schedule films that they say can increase box office sales by between 30% and 120%.

The program is based on a research study called “SilverScreener: A Modeling Approach to Movie Screens Management,” which appears in the academic journal Marketing Science.

It matches upcoming movies with similar films that have played in the theater in the past and takes into account factors such as genre, stars, distributor and MPAA rating to help managers make their initial picks at the beginning of the season and to tune up as they go along.

Dr. Charles Weinberg, marketing professor at the University of British Columbia and co-author of the study, said that the pressure to book new releases is costing theater managers money.

“In testing it,” he says, “the program tends to book fewer movies and let them run longer. The theater owners are clearly better off. Some distributors win and others lose, but it seems that distributors are as well off as they were before.”

“Silver Screen,” based on a mathematical model used in other industries, has undergone testing for the past six months in Europe with a group of exhibitors that wish to remain anonymous.

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