the revenant the revenant Thanks to fitness tracking technology, we now know how thrilling 'The Revenant' really is to audiences. (Photo: The Revenant)

The data behind the heart-pounding moments of 'The Revenant'

Thanks to wearable fitness technology, Hollywood has a new way to gauge audience reaction to a film.

While "The Revenant" movie is a groundbreaking achievement in both cinematography and storytelling, it's also something of a pioneer in the world of Hollywood analytics. Helmed by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu and Arnon Milchan, a prolific film producer from Israel, the Oscar-nominated epic is the first to leverage fitness trackers to measure an audience's physiological response.

That's right – the very thing you might use to measure your workout or sleep patterns is now a new tool in Hollywood's efforts to craft a better movie.

Last fall, the digital marketing team behind "The Revenant" partnered with bioanalytics firm Lightwave for select screenings of the film in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Each audience member received a modified fitness tracker to place on their wrist to measure heart rate, electrodermal activity (changes in the electrical activity of the skin) and motion. As they watched the survival tale unfold on screen, real-time, unbiased feedback of their physiological responses was recorded by Lightwave.

LightwaveAn aggregate of the real-time feedback provided by audiences equipped with Lightwave while watching 'The Revenant.' (Photo: Lightwave)

As Rana June, CEO of Lightwave, shared in a statement, the results are a dramatic departure from an industry used to relying on intuition and surveys to gauge an audience's engagement with a film.

"The insights gathered using our technology are generated from data that has previously been unattainable by filmmakers, producers and studios," she said. "Through Lightwave, we were able to better discern the audience's emotional response to 'The Revenant' in a revolutionary new way."

Just how thrilling is "The Revenant," according to science? In the course of 2 hours and 36 minutes, you can expect your body to feel 15 fight-or-flight responses, 14 moments of heart-racing action and nine scenes where you'll jump out of your seat.

the revenant lightwaveThanks to new biometric tools, Hollywood films no longer need catchy one-liners from critics to draw audiences in. (Photo: Lightwave)

The information gathered is not only useful for marketing purposes, but also for filmmakers working on last-minute edits. In the future, it may be common for a director to either dial up or down a scene's impact purely on the average heart rate responses from screenings. This technology will impact more than just filmmaking. Lightwave brought crowd biometrics to the Wimbledon tennis tournament this past summer, and they also helped create a "bioreactive concert" for Pepsi.

According to June, biometrics will likely have a starring role alongside traditional marketing tools moving forward.

"We’ve seen that this new type of audience sentiment data leads to better events and better fan experiences than ever before possible," she said in a recent interview, "and the creative possibilities for this type of interactivity for audiences and performers are nearly endless when put in the hands of creatives and artists."


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The data behind the heart-pounding moments of 'The Revenant'
Thanks to wearable fitness technology, Hollywood has a new way to gauge audience reaction to a film.