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.
“Mockingjay” is undoubtedly the box office event of the year, with the behemoth franchise a lock to blow away all comers in 2014. Best so far this year was the fourth “Transformers” movie with a $100 million opening, a total which “Mockingjay” will obliterate on its way to $149 million this weekend.
While this total is obviously massive, “Mockingjay” will likely come in lower than the first two “The Hunger Games” installments which took $152 million and $158 million, respectively. “Mockingjay” has more trailer views than last years “Catching Fire” with 94 million to 82 million, but has driven less Twitter and search volume. It has 1.27 million tweets and 158,000 searches, where “Catching Fire” had 2.5 million tweets and 198,000 searches.
As always Lionsgate has kept the enormous fan community occupied in the wait between movies with a series of innovative online initiatives, engaging fans both by keeping content flowing and also by centering events around the fans themselves. The #askmockingjay event drove over 12,000 tweets and saw fans attending a lavish presentation with the movie’s cast and crew where they answered questions submitted across various social media platforms.
“Mockingjay” follows the districts’ uprising against the Capitol and played into this plotline by shaping the online campaign to the narrative of the movie. As well as adapting the classic “Capitol Couture” site according to events in the new movie, there are also microsites for each side of the conflict: District13 instructs fans how to hack into the Capitol mainframe and aid the rebellion, while Capitol TV is the state-sanctioned TV channel (along with a Capitol run One Panem Instagram account) . This propaganda machine showcases “District Voices” — a series of videos produced in conjunction with YouTube stars which laud the Capitol, digging deeper into the fabric of each district and fleshing out the world of the movies and books even further.
Fans got their chance to side with Katniss’ rebels in the RPG-style “Panem Rising” mobile game. Players create a squad of fighters to battle through the districts and topple President Snow, and District 13 was brought to the real world with the “Our Leader the Mockingjay” app, which allowed fans to discover exclusive content and exchange secret messages with other users.
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.