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.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (Paramount)
Like his popular “Transformers,” the source material for Michael Bay’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” inspires a great deal of nostalgia among people of a certain age, and retains an appeal to younger viewers by virtue of being martial arts experts, pizza loving, anthropomorphic, skateboarding turtles, who are also pals with Megan Fox. This is their first outing in years and they’re swinging into the weekend armed with great social stats.
However, the biggest problem the bodacious bros are facing isn’t fan discontent at their snub-nosed look in the previews, but Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” currently inhabiting the top spot at the box office and looking unwilling to relinquish it to a bunch of sewer-dwelling mutants. “TMNT” is ahead on Facebook with more Likes and a higher PTAT than “Guardians” had last week when it opened to $94 million. It also has a similar amount of trailer views, albeit with a lower YouTube Buzz and a lower number of tweets. Yet because of the impact of “Guardians’” second week on their weekend take, Leonardo and the guys will likely be making around $40 million.
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A fairer comparison than “Guardians” is the original title “Lucy,” which opened to $43.8 million a few weeks ago. A total around 50% of “Guardians’” take would see “TMNT” make $47 million, and similarly the social stats are looking slightly better than “Lucy,” but that’s excluding the “Guardians” holdover effect.
While “TMNT” is well ahead on trailer views, without even including clips shared on Moviefone and Yahoo! movies, it also has over twice as many as “Lucy’s'” 89,000 tweets, and a lead on search to “Lucy’s'” 132,000, boosted by support from the LA Dodgers bullpen (part of an MLB wide promotion). Twitter has been used to appeal to older fans using hashtags such as #TMNTThrowback, encouraging fans to share their memories of watching the Turtles when they were kids, and promotion from the cast, as well as appealing to families through kids networks such as Nickelodeon (and an action-packed tumblr), as well as to parents through mommy bloggers.
However, while “TMNT” is looking better than “Lucy” on social, “Guardians” is a formidable foe and will probably push the renaissance reptilians into second place.
Final expectations: “TMNT” will re-emerge onto the streets of NYC with around $40 million.
“Into the Storm” (New Line)
“Into the Storm” is doing just that this weekend, entering a box office where “Guardians” and “TMNT” will dominate, so this disaster movie will be looking to defy its genre by attracting other audiences such as younger moviegoers who are too young to know the turtles and women who have had their fill of superheroes. The big selling point of the movie is the special effects which were showcased at San Diego Comic-Con and in the images and clips surrounding the movie, a theme which was the main thrust of the director Steven Quale’s Reddit AMA. To raise awareness among female audiences, star Sarah Wayne Callies took over E!’s 300,000 strong Instagram account to post premiere images.
“Pompeii” documented an ancient disaster and while it provoked similar interest in older audiences with 61,300 searches, “Into the Storm” has created more interest with younger moviegoers (allied to a Promoted Trend), well ahead of “Pompeii’s'” 19,000 tweets, suggesting this is where “Into the Storm” can make significant gains and top “Pompeii’s'” $9.8 million opening.
Final expectations: “Into the Storm” will whip up between $12 and $15 million this weekend.
“Step Up: All In” (Lionsgate)
“Step Up: All In” appeals to a younger female audience, who aren’t likely to be catching Peter Quill or Donatello’s gang over the weekend. The 18 million strong Facebook page shows the worldwide popularity of the brand, although box office return has declined movie-on-movie. Features on Buzzfeed, teen.com and with “So You Think You Can Dance” stars appeal to this audience, which has driven over 90,000 tweets — however, the lack of wider appeal is shown by the relatively low search. “Endless Love” bowed to $13 million over Valentine’s weekend with 201,000 tweets and 87,000 search, so with 90,000 tweets and 40,300 searches, it’s the only viable young female option and should be looking at a total around $8-9 million.
Final expectations: “Step Up: All In” will dance its way to a total over $8 million.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” (DreamWorks)
Where “Step Up: All In” is for young females, “The Hundred-Foot Journey” is for older audiences. Where “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” had India, “Journey” has France. And where “Million Dollar Arm” had baseball, “Journey” has cooking.
“Journey” leveraged producer Oprah Winfrey’s large following by hosting a Q&A with star Helen Mirren and fellow producer Steven Spielberg (both without social presences) on her 10 million strong Facebook page. The “Hundred-Foot Journey” Twitter account also engaged with fans by participating in #foodiefriday and by sending out French and Indian fusion recipes while encouraging followers to share their own.
“Million Dollar Arm” opened strongly to $10.5 million earlier this year with a very strong search volume of 143,000, as well as 25,000 tweets and almost 3 million trailer views. Overall with 2 million trailers and less than half the size of “Arm” on Twitter and Search, “Journey” should serve up about $7-8 million to go with its Michelin star.
Final expectations: “The Hundred-foot Journey” will cook up a comforting total around $8 million.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of Moviepilot, a fan-focused platform for movie geeks, cinephiles and everything in between, reaching over 10 million monthly unique users and over 15 million Facebook fans. Based on community data, Moviepilot helps studios to optimize their social media campaigns, identifying and activating the right audiences. The company works with studios like Sony, 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight, A24, CBS Films and Focus Features.
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.