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.
“Fury” rolls into theaters this weekend armed with the mega star power of Brad Pitt, solid reviews and good social stats. The first of three World War II movies opening this season (the others being Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” and “The Imitation Game”), all with significant Oscar buzz surrounding them, “Fury” looks by far the most action heavy. Sony cleverly played this up in the social campaign by appealing to tank and war enthusiasts as well as gamers. “Fury” developed a gaming app based on the film as well as motion comics promoted on AMC Theaters’ Instagram account to appeal to younger audiences. They’ve also partnered with online gaming site worldoftanks.com on a series of promotions and interactive experiences connecting fans with the film.
Social numbers for “Fury” are stacking up just ahead of “Captain Phillips” and George Clooney’s World War II film, “The Monuments Men,” which opened to $25.7 million and $22 million, respectively. “Captain Phillips” released on the same weekend last year to 35,000 tweets and 77,000 on search, while “Monuments Men” performed similarly with 26,000 tweets and 72,000 search. Alternatively, “Lone Survivor” surprised earlier this year making $37.8 million on opening with over 60,000 tweets and 200,000 search on release. While Fury is out in front of “Phillips” and “Monuments,” it’s behind “Lone Survivor” in all metrics except for YouTube views, where the film is boasting a huge view count of 24.7 million to “Lone Survivor”’s 14 million. It’s worth noting that “Lone Survivor” had a higher Buzz score (0.30%) than “Fury” (0.22%), which might dull the impact of the latter’s huge lead on views.
If it can stave off the recent box office force that is “Gone Girl,” “Fury” should enjoy an opening in the low 30s.
“The Book of Life,” Fox
Moviepilot Prediction: $18 million
While “The Book of Life” is the third family film to open in only four weeks, it’s a bit different than your usual animated fare. Produced by “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro, “The Book of Life” is about Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and the campaign has been heavily targeted to Hispanic families. There are several games featured on the film’s website to appeal to kids, and the official handle @BookofLifeMovie has been hosting fun and engaging Twitter campaigns. For example, earlier this week fans could tweet sentences with #MariachiMyTweet for a chance to have a Mariachi band turn it into a song, with cast members Channing Tatum (6.4 million Twitter followers) and Zoe Saldana (620,000 followers) joining in.
“The Boxtrolls” opened three weeks ago to $17.3 million and while it was ahead of “The Book of Life” on YouTube with more than double the views, “Book of Life” has an additional 1.75 million Spanish language trailer views and debuted their first trailer on iTunes Movie Trailers, which isn’t included in the view count. “Book of Life” also has a slightly higher number of Tweets and search. Disney’s “Planes: Fire & Rescue,” which released over the summer to a $17.5 million opening, posted similar numbers on trailer views and was slightly below on Twitter and search, indicating “Book of Life” will take in the high teens this weekend.
“The Best of Me,” Relativity
Moviepilot Prediction: $14 million
“The Best of Me” is the latest in the saccharine but successful Nicholas Sparks book-to-film adaptation series. The campaign has unsurprisingly targeted young females, which should help it avoid competition from fellow book-to-film “Gone Girl,” primarily aimed at an older audience. The social campaign has focused on “Girls Night Out” promotions and #FirstLoveFriday where the film’s partners, cast and influencers post videos recounting their first loves. “Best of Me” is posting heavily on the film’s 28,000-strong Instagram account and has also partnered with story sharing app Wattpad for a “first love” writing contest. The campaign creatively blended multiple social networks with Vine star Jerome Jarre, who teamed up with cast member Liana Liberato on a Snapchat story that was shared across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well.
“Best of Me” is behind on search compared with the last two Nicholas Sparks’ films, “The Lucky One” and “Safe Haven,” which were closer to 100,000 searches and made $22.5 million and $21 million respectively on opening. This newest entry, however, is strong on Twitter where it’s generated 205,000 tweets — more than the 201,000 teen love story “Endless Love” tallied earlier this year. “Winter’s Tale,” which racked up 3.2 million YouTube views and clocked $7.3 million on release, can’t compare to the nearly 7 million views for “Best of Me.” With all that in mind, the latest Sparks tearjerker is looking at an opening around 14 million.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching over 28 million Facebook fans and 20 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.
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.