Digital Tracking: ‘Exodus’ to Rise Above ‘Top Five’

How Moviepilot sees this week’s wide releases shaping up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google

Does digital data offer indicators that can be used to monitor marketing effectiveness and predict box office success even before awareness turns into intent? Moviepilot — which studies social data and box office trends — analyzes this weekend’s new movies across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google (the methodology behind the numbers is laid out in the appendix below) over the seven days leading up to their release, when marketing campaigns should be at their peak.

“Exodus: Gods and Kings,” 20th Century Fox
Moviepilot Prediction: $33 million
(Full disclosure: Moviepilot worked with 20th Century Fox on this title)

Ridley Scott’s retelling of the story of Moses floats down the L.A. river to settle in the box office bulrushes this weekend. In 2014, we’ve seen Darren Aronofosky’s “Noah,” starring Russell Crowe, as well as a host of other Christian movies like “Son of God” perform well at the box office. “Exodus” is set to do the same by taking the top spot with $33 million this weekend.

Everything we’ve seen from “Exodus” has highlighted the epic cinematic scope of the movie, with the latest trailer hinting at the enormous size and scale of the parting of the Red Sea scene at its conclusion. “Exodus” has highlighted the calamities sent by God in a series of videos called “10 Plagues” that imagine what the modern world would look like if they were to occur today. A slick tumblr has highlighted the visuals of the movie, as well as the star power of Christian Bale and the stunning craftsmanship in the costume design.

Measuring Moses up against “Noah” sees the leader of the Israelites around 10% behind on search — highly indicative for a title like this, which will be expecting an older audience to turn out. “Noah” also has a slight lead with 31.3 million trailer views, while “Exodus” has 21.8 million YouTube views plus several million more from trailers that debuted on Apple trailers. This suggests that an opening over $40 million may be out of reach.  Still, “Exodus” looks destined for well over $30 million and the weekend crown.

Top Five,” Paramount
Moviepilot Prediction: $9 million

Chris Rock’s semi-autobiographical comedy was the toast of Toronto and has sped toward a swift release just before Christmas, with the writer and director at the forefront of the promotional campaign. “Top Five” will be boosted by an accompanying cast of well-respected comedians like Kevin Hart and Tracy Morgan, as well as good reviews and positive word-of-mouth which has bubbled along since its festival debut.

Rock has pounded the promotional pavement hard in advance of the opening, visiting many pre-screenings in person to encourage people to spread the word about the movie. As well as hosting a Reddit AMA today, he also brings a large social presence to the table, with millions of Facebook fans and Twitter followers. On Dec. 11 Rock answered questions on Twitter through the hashtag #askChris, which boosted the overall tweet count by almost 50,000 mentions.

Rock’s feeling that his directorial debut is “a little movie” is reflected by a debut on just under 1,000 screens this weekend, fewer screens than most comedies this year. Comparing “Top Five” to this year’s most successful urban comedies suggests it should open to around $9 million this weekend. “Ride Along” sits at the top of that list with a massive $41.5 million opening weekend.

Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching over 28 million Facebook fans and 30 million monthly unique users. Based on community data, Moviepilot helps studios to optimize their social media campaigns, identifying, analyzing and activating the right audiences. The company works with studios like Sony, 20th Century Fox and A24.

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Appendix

Facebook fan (or like) numbers are a good indicator for fan awareness for a movie, even months before the release. For mainstream movies with younger target audiences, fan counts are particularly important. However, big fan numbers can be bought and movies with older target audiences typically have lower fan counts. Fan engagement measured by PTAT (People Talking About This) is a more precise but also a fickle indicator, heavily driven by content strategy and media spending.  Both numbers are global and public facing numbers from the official Facebook fanpage.

YouTube trailer counts are important for measuring early awareness about a movie. We track all English language original video content about the movie on YouTube, down to videos with 100 views, whether they are officially published by a studio or published unofficially by fans. The Buzz ratio looks at the percentage of unique viewers on YouTube that have “liked” a video and given it a “thumbs up”. Movies with over 40 million views are usually mainstream and set to dominate the box office, while titles drawing around 10 million indicate a more specific audience. If a movie does not have a solid number of trailer views on YouTube four weeks before its release, it is not promising news. But again, it is important to understand whether trailer views have been bought or grew organically. These numbers are global and public facing.

Twitter is a good real-time indicator of excitement and word of mouth, coming closer to release or following bigger PR stunts. Mainstream, comedy and horror titles all perform particularly strongly on Twitter around release. We count all tweets over the period of the last seven days before release (Friday through Thursday), that include the movie’s title plus a number of search words, e.g. “movie” OR a list of movie-specific hashtags. The numbers are global, conducted using a Twitter API partner service.

Search is a solid indicator for intent moving towards release as people actively seek out titles that they are aware of and are thinking about seeing. Search is particularly significant for fan-driven franchises and family titles as parents look for information about films they may take their children to see. We look at the last seven days (Friday  through Thursday) of global Wikipedia traffic as a conclusive proxy for Google Search volume. We have to consider that big simultaneous global releases tend to have higher search results compared to domestic releases.

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