Will I "Really Like" this Movie?

Navigating Movie Website Ratings to Select More Enjoyable Movies

Archive for the month “August, 2016”

September, When the Movies You Expect to be Good Are Bad and Vice Versa

Picking “really like” movie prospects for September is a tricky game. The movies that sound good probably aren’t and the movies that don’t sound good may be alright. As I mentioned in my last post, there is a 38.3% chance that I will “really like” a movie released in September. That means that, if I pick five movies as “really like” September prospects, I could randomly pick five and stand a good chance that two of them will be “really like” movies. Right? Theoretically, that’s true. But, I’m not picking randomly, I’m trying to pick movies I’d like which may work against me.

For example, my first movie is:

Sully. Release Date: September 9, 2016       “Really Like” Probability: 40%

This movie is directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Tom Hanks. In the last 15 years I’ve seen 15 movies directed by Clint Eastwood and “really liked” 12 of them. Over the same time frame I’ve watched 25 movies that Tom Hanks starred in and 20 of those I “really liked”. So, I “really liked” 80% of the movies I’ve seen for both the Director and the Actor. Here’s something else those 40 movies have in common. None of them were released in September. If a movie that involves the pedigree of Eastwood and Hanks is released in September, should we be skeptical? Yes, but because of the pedigree, I have to put the movie on the prospect list.

Similarly, my second prospect:

The Magnificent Seven . Release Date: September 23, 2016  “Really Like” Probability: 35%

This movie also stars a very bankable actor, Denzel Washington, and a new star, Chris Pratt. I’ve seen 23 Denzel Washington movies and “really liked” 17 of them. The movie is also in one of my favorite genres, the Western. But, guess what, none of those 23 movies was released in September. Again, this is a movie I want to see but the release date makes me skeptical.

Which brings me to three movies that don’t jump out and say “watch me” but are intriguing nonetheless. The first is:

The Light Between Oceans. Release Date:September 2, 2016 “Really Like” Probability: 35%

This movie stars two big name actors, Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, who happen to be in a relationship in their private lives. Does the off-screen chemistry translate on-screen a la Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy? We’ll have to wait and see if this melodrama rises above September expectations.

The next movie may be September-proof:

Queen of Katwe.  Release Date: September 30, 2016    “Really Like” Probability: 45%

Walt Disney Pictures over the last couple of decades has developed  a sub-genre specialty in their efforts  to produce family oriented entertainment, the “true underdog ” Sports Movie. While on occasion they’ve taken liberty with the facts, as in the 2015 McFarland, USA, their product has been consistently entertaining.This year’s underdog competitor is a young girl from a Ugandan village who trains to be a world chess champion. I believe that this movie is the most promising of the month.

For my final choice, I’m going with a selection from the odd filmography of Tim Burton:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  Release Date: September 30, 2016         “Really Like” Probability: 35%

Why did I pick this movie? Maybe it’s because it has a little bit of a Harry Potter feel to it. The clincher though is that Samuel L. Jackson is in the movie. There are five actors who I’ve seen in at least 25 movies over the past 15 years. Samuel L. Jackson is one of the five. And, he ranks only behind Tom Hanks in the average rating I’ve given those movies.

That’s all I’ve got. After all it is September movies we’re talking about.





The Best Thing About September Movies is that Awards Season is Just Around the Corner

You might think from my title that no good movie has ever been released for broad distribution in September. Of course that would be wrong. After all the movie industry has released to the public movies such as Goodfellas, Moneyball, Almost Famous, L.A. Confidential, and The Town in the month of September. But, as followers of this blog are aware, I deal in probabilities. And, based on my data, there is only a 38.3% chance I will “really like” a movie released in September. For the optimists out there, that does mean that almost 4 out of every 10 movies released I will “really like”. There will be some good movies but I wouldn’t gamble that seeing a movie on a September opening weekend is a good bet. After all you wouldn’t go to a casino and feed your entire paycheck to a slot machine with only a 38.3% chance of winning .

If you need more convincing, consider this. Out of 158 movies nominated for a Best Picture Oscar since 1990, only 4 (2.5%) were released in September and none of them won. Three of those four movies were mentioned above. The fourth is The Full Monty. How many of you have seen The Full Monty?

Here is a list of last September’s top five box office hits:

Gross (000000) Budget (000000)
Hotel Transylvania 2 $169.70  $                   80.00
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials $81.70  $                   61.00
The Intern $75.80  $                   35.00
The Visit $65.20  $                     5.00
Black Mass $62.60  $                   53.00

Only one of the five , Black Mass, earned a Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and that was with the bare minimum for the rating, 75% Fresh. None of the five met my IMDB baseline of 7.3 for a “really like” movie.

So should we just skip the movie theater in September? Maybe. But, if you really want to see a movie in the theater in September, pick one of the little movies released in August, like Hell or High Water or Florence Foster Jenkins. Be patient! Awards Season at the movies is just around the corner, beginning in October.

It’s Been “The Long, Hot Summer” and I Need a Sabbatical

On Tuesday I watched Paul Newman, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, and Jackie Gleason in the 1961 classic, The Hustler. All four actors received Academy Award nominations for this terrific movie. For Newman, his break through performance put him on the Actor’s “A” List where he would stay for the rest of his life. For Piper Laurie, it was the last movie she would do for 15 years while she raised her daughter. She restarted her film career in 1976 with another Oscar nominated performance in the movie Carrie. For George C. Scott, his Supporting Actor nomination put him in competition with Jackie Gleason for the same category. Scott refused the nomination because he didn’t believe in competing with fellow actors. Ten years later when he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Patton, he refused the reward because his feelings about competing with fellow actors hadn’t changed. For Jackie Gleason, this was his one and only Oscar nomination, his role of a lifetime.

In the six months that I’ve been writing this blog, the thing I’ve enjoyed the most is digging into what’s underneath the surface trends in the movie industry and providing some data to better understand those discoveries. For example, when we watch a movie like The Hustler most of us look at the entertainment value of the film. But, for the actors in this movie, being in this movie changed their lives, their careers, and their attitudes about their craft. That’s what’s going on below the surface and I’m fascinated by that. This look at movie trends through data represents an evolution in my original intent for the blog and, I suppose, that’s okay. What I have discovered, though, is that this evolution requires me to give myself more time between posts to develop the research and data development that will continue to interest those of you who share my interest and check in on occasion.

So here’s the plan going forward. I’m taking a sabbatical for the next month while I take care of some personal obligations in my life. I will continue to update the lists on the site while I’m away. I will also post my two September movie preview posts on August 25th and 29th. When I return on September 15th, I will keep a one post a week schedule on Thursdays. This will give me a little more time to dig deeper into my topic of the week. The exception to this is that I will continue my two monthly movie preview posts during the last week of each month.

Of course, The Long, Hot Summer reference in the title of this post is from the filmography of Paul Newman. It was his second lead actor role for which he won Best Actor at Cannes. During the filming of a The Long, Hot Summer, which was released in 1958 he met and fell in love with his co-star Joanne Woodward, who became his bride shortly thereafter. Enjoy the rest of your “long, hot summer” knowing that Awards Season is right around the corner.




Can the Westerns Genre Thread the Gender Gap Needle?

The big box office news this past weekend was the big decline in ticket sales for Suicide Squad and the strong opening for Sausage Party. But, without much fanfare, the best performing movie of the weekend was Hell or High Water, a modern day Western. Because it only opened in 32 theaters this weekend, you won’t find it in the box office top ten. It was, however, the number one movie of the weekend in terms of ticket sales per theater, racking up an impressive per screen average of $18,500, well ahead of Sausage Party at $10,828 per screen. Could the Western genre be experiencing a renaissance?

Westerns were very popular in the twentieth century up until the 1960’s. After that it seemed like their audience rode off into the sunset with the heroes of this genre. The decline of the Western genre may be influenced by the growing purchasing power of women. Today women purchase more than half of the tickets sold at movie theaters and Westerns have not been popular with women.

In a study I did of IMDB’s top movies from the Western genre the problem becomes evident. Women typically make up around 16% of the IMDB vote. For the Western genre women make up around 9% of the vote. For all movies, women have the same IMDB average rating as men. For Westerns, women have an average rating that is 0.3 points lower.

It appears that movie studios recognized that they had a problem attracting women to Western movies and began to make them more female-friendly. My study bears this out.

Movie IMDB Average Rating
Release Male Female Female % of all Votes
Pre-1970             8.4             8.0 8.5%
Post-1969             7.8             7.8 13.0%

In terms of female participation and average rating, the gender gap was clearly narrowing in the Post-1969 era.

In my 40 movie sample, three actors appear in multiple movies and they are instructive of the Western gender gap.

IMDB Average Rating
# of Movies Male Female Female % of all Votes
John Wayne 6             7.9             7.4 10%
Clint Eastwood 8             8.4             8.1 7%
Kevin Costner 4             7.7             7.7 13%

John Wayne and Clint Eastwood are symbolic of the golden age of Westerns and representative of the gender gap experienced by the genre. John Wayne is the tough as nails hero. Clint Eastwood is the tough as nails anti-hero.  Kevin Costner, on the other hand plays a more charming and humanistic hero in his movies. Where John Wayne is an Indian fighter in his roles, Costner becomes a friend of the Indians in Dances with Wolves. Where Clint Eastwood is the less than noble loner, Costner in Open Range becomes the romantic partner of the female ranch owner in her quest to protect her land.

In the Post-1969 era of the Western genre, movie producers are clearly recognizing the need to appeal to women to make the genre viable again. On the flip side, the average male vote is lower as the machismo in these movies is mitigated. It is an interesting case study in movie market dynamics.

It will be interesting to track Hell or High Water  as it moves to wider release next week. In early IMDB voting, it has 15% female participation in the voting, above average for the genre, and a male average rating of 8.2, suggesting strong male appeal. Early on it is threading the gender gap needle. We’ll have to wait a few weeks to see if this early trend continues.

Does Rotten Tomatoes Unduly Influence the Movie Box Office?

A firestorm arose last week among DC Comics fans when reviews started to aggregate on Rotten Tomatoes for the latest DC Comics movie installment, Suicide Squad. From those early reviews it was clear that DC Comics was headed to its third straight Rotten rating. As of today the Rotten Tomatoes Ratings for the three DC movies released so far are:

Release Date Rotten Tomatoes Rating
Man of Steel 6/14/2013 Rotten 55%
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 5/23/2016 Rotten 27%
Suicide Squad 8/5/2016 Rotten 26%

DC Comics fans were so enraged by the emerging Rotten rating for Suicide Squad last week that they initiated a petition to shut down the Rotten Tomatoes website. Do they have a point? Do critics prejudice movie viewers against movies with Rotten ratings?

Last year I created a time series of movies released in the second half of 2015 that made it into the weekly box office top ten. From that data, I’m able to measure box office performance for movies rated Certified Fresh vs. Rotten by Rotten Tomatoes.

Top Ten Box Office Movies
Released  July 17 to October 13, 2015
Opening Weekend Box Office (1,000,000) Total Box Office (1,000,000) % Growth After First Weekend
Certified Fresh  $        26.50  $       92.14 247.7%
Rotten  $        13.37  $       40.19 200.6%

Certified Fresh movies, on average, open with almost twice the box office as Rotten Movies. And, after the first weekend, the additional growth in sales is 23.5% greater for Certified Fresh movies. In addition, Certified Fresh movies have an average theatrical box office run of 96 days as opposed to 72 days for movies rated Rotten.

So obviously Rotten Tomatoes does influence theater goers into seeing Certified Fresh movies over Rotten movies, right? Yes, and justifiably so. Audiences enjoy the Certified Fresh movies more according to IMDB feedback from opening weekend movie goers.

Top Ten Box Office Movies
Released  July 17 to October 13, 2015
Opening Weekend IMDB Rating
Certified Fresh                7.9
Rotten                6.1

The people who go to movies on the opening weekend are the ones who are most predisposed to like the movie. If they rate Rotten movies low on IMDB, the casual viewer is likely to rate it even lower. Rotten Tomatoes is doing the person planning on going to the movies a service by redirecting then away from below average movies. In fairness, though, the IMDB ratings for the three DC Comics movies are better than the average Rotten rating in my study.

IMDB Rating as of 8/11/2016
Man of Steel 7.2
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 6.9
Suicide Squad 7.0

These IMDB ratings are closer to what you might see for a Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. The  incongruity between the IMDB average ratings and Rotten Tomatoes might be worth a second look. The influence of bad reviews on the box office for these movies is also unclear..

Opening Weekend Box Office (1,000,000) Total Box Office (1,000,000) % Growth After First Weekend
Man of Steel  $      116.62  $     291.05 149.6%
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice  $      166.01  $     330.25 98.9%
Suicide Squad  $      135.10

At first blush, these movies appear to underperform in the weeks after successful opening weekends. But, when you compare their box office growth after opening weekend to the very successful Captain America: Civil War the post-opening weekend box office growth lags, but not outrageously so.

Opening Weekend Box Office (1,000,000) Total Box Office (1,000,000) % Growth After First Weekend
Captain America: Civil War  $      179.14  $     407.05 127.2%

We’ll have to wait and see whether Suicide Squad underperforms in subsequent weeks. But it might be that franchise movies have a built in audience that mitigates somewhat the influence of bad reviews for all but the casual movie goer.

When Might We See the Next Perfect Netflix-DVD Movie?

Last Thursday I posted a list of 51 movies that received a Netflix-DVD perfect score of 4.9. For anyone who has experienced the joy of seeing a movie that they absolutely love, you know that those couple of hours of cinema nirvana don’t happen every day. If I’m lucky enough to run across a movie with a Netflix-DVD Best Guess of 4.9, that I haven’t seen, I know that there is a high probability that movie heaven has arrived. So the question is, “When am I likely to discover another Netflix-DVD movie with a 4.9 rating?”

Well, of the 51 perfect score movies out there today, here is the breakdown by month of how many 4.9 movies have gone into wide release for a given month:

Dec 14
Jun 7
Oct 7
May 6
Remaining Months < 5

It is not surprising that December is far and away the most represented month. Producers that are most confident in a particular movie’s chances of winning Oscar gold, release those movies in December. If we consolidate this list down to the three movie seasons, we see that Netflix perfection isn’t limited to Awards Season.

 # of  Movies # of movies per Month
Awards Season 25 8.3
Blockbuster Season 21 4.2
Dump Season 5 1.3

While it might appear that a perfect score movie is almost as likely to be released during Blockbuster Season as Awards Season, you need to keep in mind that Awards Season (Oct – Dec) is three months long while Blockbuster Season (Mar – Jul) is five months long. Based on the monthly average a perfect Netflix movie is almost twice as likely to be released during Awards Season as opposed to Blockbuster Season. Rarely is a perfect movie released in Dump Season. One of the five movies, Million Dollar Baby, went into limited release in December to be eligible for that year’s Awards Season before going into wide release in January. It was therefore released only technically during Dump Season.

So, now we know that the most likely time of the year for a new perfect score movie to be released is during Awards Season, particularly in December. Are we likely to see one released this year? Here’s where it gets tricky. From 1992 to 2010, at least one perfect score movie was released every year. Since 2010, we’ve had three released in 2012 and one released last year. Here’s the breakdown by decade:

2010’s 6
2000’s 15
1990’s 14
1980’s 7
1970’6 5
1960’s 2
1950’s 0
1940’s 2

Does this mean that movie heaven begins and ends between 1990 and 2009? No, the answer is more mundane. The answer lies in the statistical concept of the law of large numbers. Netflix needs a large statistical base of ratings for a particular movie before its model will assign it a 4.9. It is only with those large numbers will the Netflix model be able to confidently predict that you will love a particular movie. Of the 51 perfect score movies on my list, only four have fewer than 1,000,000 ratings – the relatively recent movies, The Martian, Argo, Lincoln, and the 1946 classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. The preponderance of perfect score movies between 1990 and 2009 has more to do with the fact that they are the most seen movies by Netflix raters.

To the question, “When will the next perfect Netflix-DVD movie come along?”, the answer is that it probably already has come along and it’s just waiting for enough Netflix ratings. Based on the results from 1992 to 2010, there is likely to be a perfect score movie this year, although it probably hasn’t been released yet (the one already released movie with a shot is Captain America: Civil War). In the mean time, watch those perfect Netflix movies from my last post that may have slipped by you. Experience a little bit of movie heaven while we wait for th next perfect movie to reveal itself.

A Netflix-DVD Perfect Score Movie Is a Must See Movie

Nothing in life is guaranteed. How often have you heard that? Those who use that phrase are probably right…most of the time. But when Netflix-DVD provides you with a “Best Guess” of 4.9 for a particular movie, I can say that you are guaranteed to “really like” that movie and be pretty confident that I am right. In my database of 1,980 movies, 51 have received a perfect score of 4.9 from Netflix-DVD. That is 2.6% of all of the movies I have watched in the last 15 years. Of those 51 perfect score movies, I have given a “really like” score of 75 (out of 100) or higher to all 51 movies. I have given a “love” score of 85 or higher to 48 of the 51. If Netflix-DVD presents me with a movie with a Best Guess of 4.9, there is a 94.1% probability that I will “love” the movie, and close to 100% that I will “really like” it. That is pretty darn close to a guarantee.

So, after providing all of these guarantees, it would be just cruel of me not to share with you the 51 perfect score movies. Here they are:

Netflix-DVD Perfect Score Movies
American President, The King’s Speech, The
Apollo 13 L.A. Confidential
Argo Lincoln
Batman Begins Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Bourne Identity, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The
Bourne Ultimatum, The Martian, The
Braveheart Million Dollar Baby
Casablanca Mystic River
Cinderella Man Raiders of the Lost Ark
Dark Knight, The Rocky
Departed, The Saving Private Ryan
Few Good Men, A Schindler’s List
Field of Dreams Shawshank Redemption, The
Forrest Gump Silver Linings Playbook
Fugitive, The Sixth Sense, The
Gladiator Sleepless in Seattle
Glory Social Network, The
Godfather, The Sound of Music, The
Godfather: Part II, The Spider-Man 2
Gone Baby Gone Star Trek
Good Will Hunting Star Wars IV: A New Hope
Hoosiers Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
It’s a Wonderful Life Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
Jerry Maguire Sting, The
Juno To Kill a Mockingbird
When Harry Met Sally

Those of you who are movie lovers probably have seen all or most of these. If not, you probably can’t go wrong sampling some movies from this list. The list is also a peek at my taste in movies. Netflix-DVD is uncanny in its capability to look into the depths of my movie soul and pick out the perfect movie. I’ll just mention again that I’m not referring to the recommendations that you get on Streaming Netflix. It seems like they give five stars to everything. The perfect scores for this post is from the DVD recommender.

We all strive for perfection at different times in our lives. Netflix 4.9 movies define perfection for movie recommendations.

The Careers of Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks Through the Eyes of IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes

Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks have been two of the most bankable stars in Hollywood for over a quarter of a century. Both were around 28 when their first movies  were released. It is interesting to view their careers through the average ratings of the movies they were in.

First Career Phase (10  movies each)
Age Avg IMDB Rating Avg Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Academy Award Noms./Wins
Streep 28 to 35 7.2 71%   5 Noms./2 Wins
Hanks 28 to 32 6.1 61% 1 Nom/ 0 Wins

Meryl Streep hit the ground running. She was a Tony nominee on Broadway before landing her first role in the Oscar nominated movie Julia. She won an Emmy Award for the miniseries Holocaust before landing a supporting role in The Deer Hunter for which she received her first Oscar nomination. It is an incredible accomplishment that she was nominated for Academy Awards in five of her first ten movies, winning for Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice. In her personal life, her 3 year relationship with actor John Cazale ended with his death when Streep was 28 years. Six months later she married Don Gummer and had her first child at age 30 and her second four years later at age 34.

Tom Hanks crossed over from TV to film. While he was best known for the cross dressing role of Kip Wilson on Bosom Buddies, his real break came at age 26 when he appeared with Ron Howard on an episode of Happy Days. This appearance led Ron Howard, the Director, to cast Tom Hanks in the lead for the movie Splash, which went on to a fairly successful box office run. For the remainder of this period Hanks endured a number of flops until his critical breakthrough in Big, which earned him his first Academy Award nomination at age 32. In his personal life, Hanks went through the divorce from his first wife, with whom he had two children. The children were 9 and 4 at the time of the divorce. Hanks married his second wife, Rita Wilson, at the age of 32.

Second Career Phase (9 movies for Streep, 10 for Hanks))
Age Avg IMDB Rating Avg Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Academy Award Noms./Wins
Streep 36 to 43 6.5 66%   4 noms/0 wins
Hanks 33 to 39 7.0 67%   2 noms/2 wins

During this second phase of their careers Meryl Streep solidified her position as the premier actress of her time, while Tom Hanks made a successful transition to the “A-List” of Hollywood actors. Remarkably, Streep continued to earn Oscar Nominations for almost half of the movies she was in. Hanks gained serious actor status by transitioning to dramatic roles that resulted in Best Actor nominations and wins in consecutive years for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. In their personal lives, both experienced the births of their 3rd and 4th children.

Third Career Phase (10 movies for Streep, 11 for Hanks)
Age Avg IMDB Rating Avg Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Academy Award Noms./Wins
Streep 44 to 53 6.9 67%   4 noms/0 wins
Hanks 40 to 48 7.4 79%   2 noms/0 wins

This third phase saw an uptick in the quality of the movies each appeared in. In terms of opportunity, Hanks was at the peak of his career. To appear in 11 movies with an average Rotten Tomatoes rating of 79% Fresh suggests that he had the pick of the litter in terms of selecting movies to appear in at this time. As for Meryl Streep, she continued to select roles that earned her an Academy Award nominations for almost every other movie she appeared in.

Fourth Career Phase (12 movies each)
Age Avg IMDB Rating Avg Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Academy Award Noms./Wins
Streep 54 to 59 6.6 56%   2 noms/0 wins
Hanks 49 to 59 6.6 60%   0 noms/0 wins

This fourth phase of each actor’s career is interesting. In terms of the quality of the movies they were in, the numbers are very similar. Meryl Streep  earned two Oscar nominations during this period for The Devil Wears Prada and Doubt, but seems more intent on working rather than cherry-picking Oscar worthy roles. She averaged two movies a year during this period, far and away the most productive period of her career For Hanks, on the other, hand, this is the least productive period for movie acting, about one a year, as he became more involved in producing. He appeared to be more selective in his acting roles, with half being in Oscar nominated movies.

Fifth Career Phase (11 movies)
Age Avg IMDB Rating Avg Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh Academy Award Noms./Wins
Streep 60 to 66 6.7 67%  4 noms/1 wins

Meryl Streep is seven years older than Tom Hanks and so she has completed a career phase that Tom Hanks is just entering. Compare her IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes results during this latest stage in her acting career with her second and third phases and you’ll find that they are very similar. The biggest difference is that she is acting in more movies. From age 28 to 53, Meryl Streep averaged 1.13 movies per year. From 54 to 66, she has averaged 1.77 movie per year.

Let me sum up with a couple of observations. First, if we can use average IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes ratings as indicators of the quality of roles available to Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, then the best opportunities available to Meryl Streep were from age 28 to 35 and for Tom Hanks from age 40 to 48. These results are consistent with the study I posted earlier in the year which noted that the amount of dialogue  for women in scripts peaks before age 31. Secondly, both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks have four children. During the years that each was involved in caring for their children, Meryl Streep made fewer movies and Tom Hanks made more movies. From age 28 to 43, Meryl Streep made 1.19 movies per year. From age 28 to 39, Tom Hanks made 1.67 movies per year. I won’t draw any conclusions from these observations. I do intend, however, to do more of these side by side career comparisons in the future to see if any patterns do emerge.

Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) and Tom Hanks (Sully) are once again appearing in movies this year that should include them in the conversation for acting awards. They are truly American treasures.





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