06/05/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Twitter As Box Office Oracle?

While the IPad might be getting all of the attention this week, other innovations are shaping the way media is produced and consumed in more subtle ways, but with profound implications.

The LA Times reports that two Silicon Valley researchers claim they have found a way to use Twitter to predict box office returns with astonishing accuracy:

Sitaram Asur and Bernardo Huberman, two social computing scientists at HP Labs in Palo Alto, contend that computational formulas using Twitter feeds can predict with as much as 97.3% accuracy how a movie will perform in its first weekend of release.

That far surpasses the traditional survey-based "tracking" reports that studios have long relied upon to forecast movie ticket sales, or the popular online site Hollywood Stock Exchange that lets users wager on their box-office predictions with pretend money.

The computer models based on Twitter chatter could signal a Merlin-like tool for Hollywood, which has long struggled to come up with fail-safe ways to forecast how movies will do at the box office.

Such a powerful predictive tool, used in conjunction with the controversial proposal to allow box office futures trading, could turn Hollywood into a lucrative, and dangerous, online casino.