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.
“The Equalizer,” Sony
Denzel Washington is one of the last of a dying breed: the movie star who can sell the product by virtue of printing his name on the poster alone. Denzel’s enduring popularity has delivered an excellent Reddit AMA and an impressive set of numbers, which will likely lead to a large opening.
Washington still excites moviegoers, with his face the hallmark of the campaign. The marketing has made a concerted effort to reach different demographics, with posts being published in Spanish to appeal to Hispanic audiences and tweets from Queen Latifah to draw attention from urban audiences. A strong turnout is expected from all quarters this weekend — however, this can make the first weekend hard to predict as activity increases among these audiences over the weekend rather than dropping off immediately on release day. We saw this recently with “No Good Deed,” where tweet and search volume doubled two days after the movie came out, rather than beginning a gradual decline.
“The Equalizer” has also employed the same “Twitter-trail” strategy that was so successful in activating audiences for “No Good Deed,” and has been screened to sports teams in order to access their large, male fan bases. Reaching these audiences was strategically important, with the second trailer debuting on Eminem’s social channels, driving over 150,000 Likes on the Facebook post and 900,000 views on his YouTube account. Overall “The Equalizer” is shaping up more strongly than “No Good Deed,” with 19.7 million trailer views compared to 6.12 million, and with a higher Buzz of 0.30% (about average) to 0.17%.
Current box office companions include Liam Neeson’s “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” that opened to $13 million with social stats around a third the size of “The Equalizer:” 5 million trailer views, 13,000 tweets and 60,000 searches. Neeson’s “Non-Stop” fared better earlier in the year, debuting to $28.9 million, but was also over 10 million views behind on YouTube, although “Non-Stop” did enjoy similar tweet and search volume. This suggests “The Equalizer” will match this total and open to around $30 million. If Denzel’s charisma can dispel any fall box office doom and gloom we could even see it reaching $33 million.
Final Expectations: Denzel will strut his way up to $30 million this weekend.
While Denzel storms into theaters guns blazing, the other wide opening this weekend is quite the opposite — a family film featuring a more unusual premise that’s geared toward a much younger audience. “The Boxtrolls” is the latest offering from Laika, the same company that created the spooky animated titles “Coraline” and “Paranorman,” and is shaping up to take home a similar amount at the box office this weekend.
Attempting to attract families and kids, “The Boxtrolls” have produced several games and apps, promoted in conjunction with kids TV networks like Nickelodeon. “The Boxtrolls’” 12,000 strong Instagram account is also very impressive for an original title that hasn’t indulged in IG ads. While the story is atypical, the film should remind filmgoers of Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” and “Corpse Bride” — the latter boasting the highest opening stop motion feature to date at $19 million on wide release. “The Boxtrolls” is also the first animated title in several months, the most recent being Disney’s “Planes: Fire & Rescue”, which took in $17.5 million back in July.
While a very different type of film, as well as an original title, “The Boxtrolls” is shaping up similarly on social with 30,000 tweets to “Planes’” 26,000, as well as a similar search volume. With “Paranorman’s” opening of $14 million in mind, “The Boxtrolls” looks likely to grab a slightly higher total this weekend and could reach as high as $16 million.
Final Expectations: “The Boxtrolls” will roll away with up to a $16 million opening.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of http://www.moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching over 15 million Facebook fans and 7 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, Twentieth Century Fox and FilmDistrict.
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.