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A Box Office Disappointment: Why the Book is Always Better than the Movie *

Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.


The author of this project hypothesized that movies often disappoint readers because book-based movies tend to "dumb down" the works on which they are based (Fuhrman, 2002). Naturally, selective compression is necessary when telling a story as a movie, or no one would sit through it. (Hey, maybe there's an idea for a different experiment!) Selective compression is not necessarily the same, however, as simplification. There are ways to objectively measure the complexity of written language with a computer program. (In fact, if you have programming skills, you could think about writing one yourself. See: Paragraph Stats: Writing a JavaScript Program to 'Measure' Text.) For a large selection of movies, compare movie scenes to the same scenes in the books on which the movie is based by transcribing the dialog from the movie (a DVD player is very helpful for this part). Type in the corresponding text from the book. Run each block of text through the same complexity analysis program and compare the results.

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Last edit date: 2013-01-10


Fuhrman, A., 2002. "A Box Office Disappointment: Why the Book is Always Better than the Movie," California State Science Fair Project Abstract [accessed February 1, 2006] http://www.usc.edu/CSSF/History/2002/Projects/J1705.pdf.

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