Social Media Buzz: ‘Expendables 3’ Goes to War with ‘Turtles’

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

The Expendables 3

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.

“Expendables 3”

The geriatric legends return for a third raid on the box office, but Sly and his pals both old and new have a tough mission to beat the turtles to top spot this weekend. The moviegoing audience for this film will likely be older, but with a more lenient rating than the R-rated “Expendables” 1 and 2, it will be interesting to see how much the pre-release leak of the movie online has sated interest among younger audiences, who could potentially have represented a new market for the franchise.

The marketing has focussed on the new blood present this time round, as the cast is packed out with even more stars, such as Antonio Banderas and Wesley Snipes, who promoted the movie in a Reddit AMA.  Males are the core audience for this movie, and they have been engaged through UFC Vines, features on IGN and workout routines on YouTube. Best of all is the Expendables-themed Broforce action-pack add-on, which adds Sly and Arnie to the mix – try and handle the awesome.

Last time out the muscle-bound mercenaries took home $28.6 million on opening weekend – you might expect franchise fatigue to take hold and see that number slide this time. That might not be the case, as Liam Neeson took $28.8 million this year in “Non-Stop”, with 10 million trailer views and 98,000 searches, while “Expendables” has 34 million with a good 0.36% average Buzz and more than twice as many searches at 192,000. However Liam did go to work at a much more bountiful time of year at the box office, and didn’t get leaked (or he would’ve found the leaker, and he would’ve… you get the idea). The WW2 Expendables in “Monuments Men” took $22 million with 3 million trailers and 72,000 searches, so the modern macho men could well be looking to take out Neeson as well as top their previous total – depending on how many viewers had free advance screenings at home.

Final Expectations: This bunch of rag tag misfits might not be smeared in turtle-blood this weekend but should be able to top their previous haul.  


“Let’s Be Cops”

(Full disclosure: Moviepilot worked with 20th Century Fox on this title)

“Let’s Be Cops” has already got off to a great start, locking up over $5 million on its opening day alone, despite the release coinciding with contentious real-life events. The trailers and clips have the best Buzz of any comedy that has opened this year, suggesting that audiences like what they’ve seen from the movie and its catchy premise. At 1.11% this is well above average and far ahead of “22 Jump Street”’s 0.72%, the strong 0.44% from “Neighbors”, and the season low 0.15% from “Sex Tape”.

Younger and female audiences will be familiar with the leads from “New Girl” as well as “Vampire Diaries”’ Nina Dobrev who has pushed the film to her millions of social followers, and this younger audience has been engaged with a series of Twitter chats, which have driven the tweet count to over 100,000, far ahead of “Sex Tape”’s 40,000 tweets 2 days after release. “Cops” has also partnered with Vine and Internet celebs such as Brittany Furlan and Brian Nash to appeal to younger movie goers.

Positive sentiment in the form of high Buzz and re-tweets should see “Cops” at least match “Sex Tape”’s $15 million weekend take, with a 5-day total most likely ending up in the mid to high 20s.

Final Expectations: “Let’s Be Cops” sped off with all sirens blaring to a great start and should return to the station with over $25 million in cash in the trunk.


The Giver

“The Giver” is the long-awaited adaptation of the popular book, finally brought to life by Jeff Bridges, enjoying a built-in audience keen to see their favorite novel on the big screen. The passion of the fans has been used to fuel the social campaign, with Facebook and Twitter accounts showcasing positive sentiment and sharing excitement for the release.

Younger moviegoers will be the primary target for the movie, and “The Giver” has utilized more modern forms of communication in order to reach fans, with an account set up with Kik messenger where fans can reach the movie, as well as Walden Media and Mashable snapchatting about the film. Stars Brenton Thwaites and Taylor Swift have also been more prominent in the marketing than Bridges and Meryl Streep, who appeal to older audiences rather than teens.

Overall the stats suggest a similar performance to last year’s book-to-film adaptation “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters”. “Percy” took $14 million with 161,000 tweets and 73,000 searches, compared to the 179,000 and 79,100 of “The Giver”, so “The Giver” should make a similar total or even go slightly higher.

Final Expectations: “The Giver” turns taker this weekend and will make around $14 million.


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.