Digital Tracking: ‘Nightcrawler’ to Slither its Way to $12 Million Opening

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.

Nightcrawler,” Open Road
Moviepilot Prediction: $12 million

When it falls on a Friday, Halloween haunts the weekend box office, with studios scared off by the specter of young audiences hunting for candy rather than cinematic treats. Aside from the re-released “Saw,” one man braving the challenge is Jake Gyllenhaal, who stars in the horror-tinged thriller “Nightcrawler” that looks set to open over $12 million — more than its production budget of around $8.5 million.

Gyllenhaal carries the movie and has also shouldered the promotional burden, bearing all in a Reddit AMA and popping up at advance movie screenings for selfies with swarms of starstruck fans — including 50 Cent. Gyllenhaal’s “Prisoners” opened to almost $21 million last year, and “Nightcrawler” has around 70% of the search volume and trailer views. This would suggest a total of between $14 million and $15 million, but we’d expect a slow Friday to dent “Nightcrawler’s” chances of making that much.

For the culinary crowd, the film does have one unique supporter: Katsuya Brentwood, which is serving up a “Nightcrawler” #RolloftheWeek.


Before I Go to Sleep,” Clarius Entertainment
Moviepilot Prediction: $3.8 million

If audiences haven’t yet gotten their fill of marital warfare this year after the massive success of “Gone Girl,” there’s always this weekend’s “Before I Go to Sleep,” a psychological thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.

David Fincher’s twisting tale of marital strife was a juggernaut socially, as word of mouth increased dramatically in anticipation of release weekend. “Before” has played on the psychological aspect of the plot with a game asking “Do you trust your own memory?” and stats wise is shaping up closer to last summer’s “Getaway,” which made $4.5 million on release with a similar number of YouTube views, although it had a much higher Buzz score. The Christian Bale thriller “Out of the Furnace” also released with comparable YouTube views at 5.83 million and took in $5.2 million. However, that film also had a much higher Buzz and more than three times the search at 38,000. With that in mind, “Before I Go to Sleep” will awake to $3.8 million this weekend.


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 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.