Here's a fascinating essay by Mike Kaplan, who oversaw marketing for the movies 2001 and A Clockwork Orange, which explains how Stanley Kubrick became one of the first commercial data scientists. In 1971, as Kaplan and Kubrick were trying to determine which theaters should show the new movie, they realized that Variety published box office totals for individual cinemas in every city. The data would potentially reveal people's preferences for different theaters, if only the two men could come up with a way to access it. In the days of manual databases, that meant spending six weeks collecting volumes of carefully curated notebooks to tally 18 months of back data. The payoff, however, was enormous: the studio was able to show the new film exclusively in theaters with the perfect mix of margins and demographics.
Rumors even presaged today's computer-driven industry:
Word quickly spread that Stanley had a computerized system to track theaters and grosses based on technical information he had acquired while developing HAL 9000, the all-knowing computer in 2001. For months these stories persisted in the trades as the roster of Clockwork cinemas was refined. They were neither confirmed nor denied.
(via Daring Fireball)