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.
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” New Line
Moviepilot Prediction (5-day): $86 million
The final installment in the epic “Hobbit” trilogy is off to a great start and looks set to be the most successful of them all, improving substantially from “Smaug’s” $73.6 million opening last year. “Five Armies” has 50% more search activity and twice the Twitter volume of “Smaug” — 300,000 searches (where “Smaug” had 200,000) and half a million Tweets (versus the 250,000 “Smaug” managed). Boosted by an #AskThranduil Q&A on Twitter, this flurry of activity suggests that moviegoers are indeed going to turn out #onelasttime for a final helping of Tolkien’s Middle Earth smorgasbord and haven’t been handcuffed by the furor surrounding “The Interview”.
“Night at the Museum: The Secret of the Tomb,” 20th Century Fox
Moviepilot Prediction: $25 million
“The Hobbit” isn’t the only trilogy concluding this weekend, with the popular family comedy franchise also coming to an end. It’s been over five years since Ben Stiller’s last adventure in the Smithsonian, but earlier this year “Dumb and Dumber To” showed that absence can make the heart grow fonder, opening well to $36 million.
This is also one of Robin Williams’s final appearances and with the holidays around the corner families will be looking for some holiday mirth. “Secret of the Tomb” appeals to adults and kids alike with themed games and a Q&A with Dexter, the simian star of the movie.
“Secret of the Tomb” looks good for an opening in the mid-twenties, with considerably more search activity than both “Muppets Most Wanted” and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” which bowed with $17 million and $18 million, respectively.
Moviepilot Prediction: $16 million
It’s been a hard-knock life for Sony recently, with “Annie” leaked and “The Interview” pulled from theaters in the wake of the cyber terrorism attack last month. The Will Smith-produced remake faces strong competition for family audiences from the weekend’s other two releases, with Disney’s “Into the Wood” looming on deck next weekend. “Annie’s'” 72,000 searches suggests solid interest from older audiences so we see “Annie” opening at around $16 million.
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.