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 are at their peak.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2,” Lionsgate
Moviepilot Prediction: $110 million
The end of an era! A journey that started back in 2012 has catapulted Jennifer Lawrence to superstardom as “The Hunger Games” has become one of the most beloved franchises on screen. Debuting this weekend to unbridled excitement from fans, “Mockingjay — Part 2” finally brings Katniss’ story to its conclusion — but that’s not the only thing that will come to an end when the credits roll.
From the first installment, “The Hunger Games” has been supported by an innovative marketing campaign, which fanned the flames of fan excitement (pun intended) by building a truly immersive world of Panem. Franchise lovers have been treated to a stream of content, from the award-winning Capitol Couture website, to apps and avant garde virtual reality experiences. “The Hunger Games” campaign made Panem real for the fans, challenging them to choose a side: Capitol or Districts.
In a year that has seen some monstrous box office totals, “Mockingjay: Part 2” is another title set to smash through $100 million. It’s hard to say just how high it will go in a crowded marketplace, but we’d expect a total around the $110 million mark.
‘The Night Before,” Sony
Moviepilot Prediction: $10 million
“The Night Before” stars Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie in a yuletide romp through New York. This is classic Rogen fare and should bring in those who enjoyed “This is the End” and last year’s controversial “The Interview.” “The Night Before” has warmly embraced the bitmoji app, encouraging fans to share their own bitmojis in terrible Christmas sweaters. The cast even did an entire interview with Buzzfeed using only bitmojis to answer. “The Night Before” has racked up a lot of trailer views and we’d expect Rogen’s audience to turn out, so we’d see this coming in around $10 million for the weekend.
“The Secret in Their Eyes,” STX
Moviepilot Prediction: $8 million
“The Secret in their Eyes” is the second release from fledgling studio STX, following its debut success with “The Gift” earlier this year. This is a remake of the excellent Argentinian thriller “El Secreto de Sus Ojos,” which triumphed at the Oscars and contained a jaw-dropping one-shot take which will live long in the memory.
The marketplace is crowded this weekend between the big openers and strong holdovers, but “The Secret in their Eyes” should fare well with the older female audience thanks to its strong cast and impressive pedigree. Marketing has been focussing on hitting that demo with a presence on Instagram and integrations with female-oriented TV shows like “How to get Away with Murder”. Solid search numbers point to a nice opening just under the $10 million mark.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching more than 29 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 Focus Features, 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 have grown 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 toward 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.