Service aims to boost opening-weekend box office

Moviepilot, an online service that harnesses the power of Facebook to drive first weekend box office for the studios, launched its global platform today.

The site uses Facebook postings such as a click on the “like” button to build anticipation for movies before theatrical release.

The service provides users, who are signed up through advertising or personal recommendations on Facebook, with updates on the development, production and pre-release marketing of select projects.

Pics pushed to users will be chosen to chime with their tastes and preferences, based on their Facebook activity. So, a user who previously “liked” one superhero pic will get updates on the progress of “The Avengers,” for example.

Moviepilot launched in Germany in 2007 as a broader-based movie news website, forming close ties with the Hollywood studios. Ten months ago the company started to build an English-language service on Facebook, tracking projects from the first rumor up to theatrical release. The service now has more than 4 million users: 85% in the U.S., 10% in the U.K. and 5% across the rest of the world.

The company is now leveraging that user base to launch an English-language website with global reach targeted at those who regularly watch movies on opening weekend.

CEO Tobias Bauckhage calculates that this group, whom he calls “First Weekenders,” totals around 25 million worldwide, he told Variety Friday.

Bauckhage said this info is crucial to the biz due to the weight that the industry places on opening weekend B.O. figures.

“The first 48 hours predetermines not only how much money you will be able to make in cinemas, but also everything else in the life cycle — what the license deal with TV stations will look like, the number of DVDs Walmart will order, and so on,” he said.

“So it is a very small fraction (of the total audience) that has a very high influence on this industry and the revenues to be made,” he said.

Sites like Facebook are key to unlocking the potential of this group, according to Bauckhage.

“We see social media as this big game changer as it gives you the opportunity to engage with these First Weekenders,” he said.

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