Does digital data offer indicators that can be used to monitor marketing effectiveness and predict box office success even before awareness turns into intent? We analyzed 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.
“Gone Girl,” 20th Century Fox
(Full disclosure: Moviepilot worked with 20th Century Fox on this title)
“Gone Girl,” the long-awaited and much-hyped adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel of the same name, arrives in theaters this weekend with great reviews and solid social numbers in tow. Could this be director David Fincher’s biggest opening yet?
Despite having a supporting cast with strong social followings (Tyler Perry has 3.7 million Twitter followers and 12.5 million Facebook fans, Neil Patrick Harris has 10.4 million on Twitter), slightly more social attention has gone to star Ben Affleck, who hosted a Facebook Q&A on his half a million strong page earlier this week.
To grab the attention of older female moviegoers, “Gone Girl” posted sweepstakes on Twitter aimed at solving clues to find Amy’s diary (the winner received tickets to see Gone Girl at the New York Film Festival last weekend). Amy Dunne – played by Rosamund Pike in the film – also has her own Pinterest account that includes boards for “Writer’s Block” and “Wishful Escapes.”
Social tie-ins to the film’s theme of lies and deception have included a classic Buzzfeed list of 10 Ways to Tell if Someone is Lying, as well as recently launched website www.riverofsecrets.com where fans can anonymously answer the question “What do you hide from the one you love?” via write-in text or recorded voice.
The landscape of social media movie marketing was much different at the time David Fincher’s last film, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” also an R-rated thriller adaptation of a bestselling novel. A more recent comparison can be found in “Prisoners,” last fall’s atmospheric thriller, which had 6.4 million YouTube views and a $20.8 million opening. Similarly, “Captain Phillips” opened with 6.9 million YouTube views and took in $25.7 million. Both were similar on search with 77,000 and 85,000, respectively. This puts “Gone Girl” well ahead of both with over 200,000 searches indicating strong interest among older audiences and with an impressive 150,000 tweets, Amazing Amy should turn up somewhere in the mid-to-high 30s — topping Fincher’s previous best “Panic Room’s” $30 million.
Final Expectations: “Gone Girl” will find its way to $36 million this weekend.
(Full disclosure: Moviepilot worked with WB on this title)
“Annabelle,” the spin-off to “The Conjuring,” arrives with dead, glassy eyes but looks set to emerge from the weekend with a twinkle in them as 2014’s highest opening horror movie so far. The “Annabelle” campaign has focused on the eponymous doll, with trailers and creepy online games based around her after she was featured as the cause for the events of “The Conjuring”.
Last year, “The Conjuring,” that opened to $41 million, and “The Purge” battled it out at the box office, with “The Conjuring” coming out on top, and the same looks set to happen with these follow-ups. “Purge: Anarchy” started to $29.8 million in July, but “Annabelle” should top that, with no other horror movies this year even coming close to matching the metrics of these powerhouses. Twitter is a key metric of interest here and “Annabelle” comes out ahead of “Purge: Anarchy” with 530,000 to 329,000, and is again ahead on search where it leads with 156,000 to 105,000. Although “Purge: Anarchy” drove 15% more trailer views with 23.5 million to 19.8 million, the 25% lead elsewhere should see “Annabelle” push ahead and potentially go way over $30 million.
Final Expectations: “Annabelle’s” glass case will house at least $30 million come Monday morning.
“Left Behind,” Freestyle Releasing
“Left Behind” is the second book-to-film hitting theaters this weekend and will look to atone for the box office sins of “The Identical,” that opened to $1.6 million recently. Nicolas Cage’s movie should do just that and will likely come in around the same level as “Mom’s Night Out,” with YouTube views providing the best proxy for box office performance: “Left Behind” has 3.01 million to the 3.33 million of “Mom’s Night Out,” which opened to $4.3 million. However, despite lagging a little here, “Left Behind” leads on Twitter and Search by over 25% volume which should balance the scale.
Final Expectations: “Left Behind” will ascend to a rapturous $4 million.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of http://www.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, Warner Bros 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 10 million to 20 million views 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.