Digital Tracking: ‘Interstellar’ to Rocket Past ‘Big Hero 6’

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

Interstellar Matthew McConaughey

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.

Big Hero 6,” Disney
Moviepilot Prediction: $60 million

This weekend promises to be one of the tightest box office battles of the year, with Disney’s Marvel-inspired “Big Hero 6” competing for first place with Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated sci-fi epic “Interstellar.” Both titles are targeting very different audiences meaning each movie will take home a huge haul, with families turning out for “BH6” while everyone else fills “Interstellar’s” theaters.

“BH6”’s scored massively on YouTube, where clips, trailers, teasers and featurettes have racked up over 53.7 million views. Leveraging the large following of the well-established Walt Disney Animation channel, which has over 1.7 million subscribers, “BH6” pushed out a series of content to drive a huge view count. “BH6” has leveraged social influences by inspiring creators to produce original content, hitting up Viners and YouTubers, as well as screening the movie early for Tumblr creators.

Socially “BH6” is performing similarly to 2014’s biggest animated hit so far, “The Lego Movie,” which made a massive $69 million on its opening with 98,000 tweets and 126,000 searches. Last year’s runaway success, “Frozen,” which took in $67 million on its wide opening, was slightly ahead with 138,000 on search. Coupled with slightly higher search numbers and similar YouTube views from “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “BH6” is looking at a huge opening over $60 million.

“Interstellar,” Paramount
Moviepilot Prediction: $64 million

“Interstellar” is the most thrilling cinematic event of the year for many film buffs, as visionary director Nolan combines spectacular visuals with a mind-bending plot to create the type of movie that comes around all too rarely. Much like last year’s mega-successful “Gravity,” “Interstellar” will have its coffers swelled by the push to see the film in its true form, this time in Imax.

Emphasizing the science in sci-fi, “Interstellar” has partnered with virtual reality simulator Oculus Rift to give fans an authentic space experience and also enjoyed endorsement from NASA themselves. Online the cast dropped in to the Smithsonian to join a Google Hangout with a selection of social influencers and YouTubers such as Casey Neistat, who promoted the hangout across his various social channels including Snapchat, where he created a Snapchat Story promoting the event and inviting his followers to submit questions.

Looking at the stats, “Interstellar” is shaping up as the strongest sci-fi movie of the year, with an enormous 60 million trailer views and 322,000 searches. Comparing it to this year’s highest grossing titles gives us a good idea of box office expectations: “Godzilla” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” both opened over $90 million with over 100 million trailers and 400,000 searches each, so at around two-thirds that size, “Interstellar” is well on course for a total over $60 million, beating out “Gravity” and just sailing past “Big Hero 6” for the top spot.

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.