Digital Tracking: ‘Penguins’ to Lead Funny Business Over Holiday Weekend

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

Penguins of Madagascar

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.

“The Penguins of Madagascar,” 20th Century Fox
Moviepilot 3-day Prediction: $38 million
(Full disclosure: Moviepilot worked with 20th Century Fox on this title).

Turkeys aren’t the only birds worthy of your attention this Thanksgiving, with the hilarious penguins, the breakout stars of the “Madagascar” trilogy, getting their very own movie. The holiday is a traditional time for family movies to be released, but with Disney’s “Big Hero 6” holding well, the black and white crew won’t have the box office all to themselves this weekend.

Family movies always have two different audiences to engage: kids and their parents (although they probably both share the same attention span). For the young ones, “Penguins” has a storytelling app which is full of games to keep them entertained, as well as the #penguingshake, where users submit videos via Instagram to create a choreogrpahed music video. To keep the big kids occupied the leader of the penguin pack Skipper took to Twitter for a live Q&A which trended on Twitter and the rest of the penguins produced a series of themed content with Buzzfeed, riffing off their playful personalities.

Stacking up the social stats of “Penguins” against other animated sequels like this summer’s “Rio 2,” “How To Train Your Dragon 2” and “Planes: Fire & Rescue” suggests “Penguins” is headed for an opening just under $40 million. Overall “Penguins” is pacing very close to “Rio 2,” which opened to $39.3 million, with 15 million trailer views for the penguins to 21 million for the parrots, and well ahead of “Planes 2,” which had 10 million views.

Horrible Bosses 2,” Warner Bros.
Moviepilot 3-day Prediction: $27 million

We’ve already seen two wildly successful comedy sequels this year with “22 Jump Street” starting with $57 million and more recently “Dumb and Dumber To” coming back with a $36 million opening weekend. Measuring “Horrible Bosses 2” against these titles suggests we’re looking at a $27 million take over the 3-day weekend.

As a sequel, “Horrible Bosses 2” has played on the popularity of the first movie by highlighting the returning cast such as Jennifer Aniston, and making sure everyone knows they’re in for more of the same risque humor we enjoyed in the original. “Horrible Bosses 2” has played on popular hashtags such #likeaboss as well as #tbt as an opportunity to tie into the best gags from the first movie. An online shower buddy game updates fans with the premise of the new film and Instagram ads have reached out to appeal to new audiences.

“22 Jump Street” leads comedies this year and started with a huge 124,000 searches, and with 88,300 “Dumb and Dumber To” also did well. “Horrible Bosses 2” is at a healthy 46,300 which should see a debut weekend just shy of $30 million, between $27-28 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.