The Formula For a Perfect Movie

A Cornell University professor analyzed 150 of the highest grossing movies of the last 70 years. The more recent the movie, he found, the closer it adhered to the mathematical formula that describes the human attention span.

In the 1990s, researchers at University of Texas in Austin determined that our attention spans could be described by the 1/f fluctuation, a pattern representing the ebb and flow of our concentration over a period of time. In a new study, professor James Cutting found that the more recent the blockbuster, the more closely the length of its shots followed that same fluctuation.

The Formula For a Perfect Movie

Whereas Detour, made in 1945, has shots that only vaguely correspond to the 1/f fluctuation, the 2005 King Kong remake stays surprisingly snug with the attention span wave.

As Cutting explains, this increasing correlation means that films "resonate with the rhythm of human attention spans," but just because movies are increasingly pleasing to our subconscious minds doesn't mean that we will necessarily like them more: the Star Wars prequels strictly followed the formula. [PhysOrg and PopSci]