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.
After being catapulted to stardom following the hilarious “Bridesmaids,” Melissa McCarthy fronted two box office successes last year in “Identity Thief” and “The Heat,” which opened to $34.5 million and $39 million, respectively, and now she looks set to repeat with “Tammy.” McCarthy is immensely likeable and appeals to female audiences, which should turn out again this weekend for more of the same from McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, who co-wrote the movie with her.
Playing to McCarthy’s naturally female slanting audience, “Tammy” leveraged platforms that are popular with women such as Tumblr to host the official site, which featured an image generator for Facebook or Twitter posting — the Tammy-Gram. Rotten Tomatoes also blogged about the “Tammy” pie-truck on its Tumblr page.
Social content has been Independence Day themed with a red, white and blue color-scheme and taglines such as “Declare Your Independence” and “Freedom Runs Wild.” Over the long weekend, “Tammy” could eclipse “The Heat’s” opening total and looks certain to pick up at least as much as “Identity Thief” with 27,000 tweets to 20,000, and 34,500 searches to 31,000. With the extra days in hand, “Tammy” could make a run at $40 million, which seems likely as “The Heat” drove 47,000 tweets and 63,000 searches before release. All three titles had similar trailer views of around 5 million to 6 million, although “The Heat” enjoyed 0.47% Buzz versus 0.40% for “Tammy.”
Final Expectations: “Tammy” will take at least $35 million and could be hotter than “The Heat” and break $40 million over the long weekend.
Summer 2013 was massive for horror movies with “The Conjuring,” “Insidious 2” and the first installment of “The Purge” cleaning up, but this year so far has been a little quieter, with the bulk of horror titles coming after “The Purge: Anarchy” drops in July. The year started with “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” taking $18.3 million and April’s “Oculus” was the next best with $12 million.
“Deliver Us From Evil” starts two weekdays earlier than this year’s other horror titles — deflating the Twitter numbers, which are key to predicting the success of a horror title. “The Conjuring” opened to $42 million after scaring up 500,000 tweets. Young females are a prime target audience for horror movies so tweet volume is a much better indicator of interest than search, as young audiences are more likely to use social to discover movies than Google. On Twitter, “Deliver Us From Evil” has trended and pushed a series of creepy videos/gifs, as well as (re-)tweeting Spanish-language tweets to appeal to the Hispanic audience which responds so eagerly to horror movies. The Facebook page has played up the “true story” angle of the movie and presented an interesting twist on traditional countdown posts, instead counting down the stages to becoming completely possessed.
To get an idea how “Deliver Us From Evil” will fare, we can look at YouTube views and Buzz. “The Marked Ones” had around 70% of the trailer view volume and “Oculus” had half as many, so scaling box office in line with that would put “Deliver Us From Evil” at around $24 million to $25 million. All three movies have below-average buzz, the highest being “Marked Ones” at 0.32%. This suggests “Deliver Us From Evil” should take the top spot for horror so far this year.
Final Expectations: “Deliver Us From Evil” will conjure up around $25 million over the long weekend.
Relativity Media’s “Earth to Echo” is the family choice this weekend and as such the goal has been to convince both parents and kids that this is the movie to see over July 4th. Exclusive clips have been released via mom websites and “Earth to Echo” has been very active on Twitter, driving an impressive 48,000 tweets up to release, in thanks part to a Q&A hosted by the “Resourceful Mom,” who added her ringing endorsement for the film. New Orleans Saints’ wide receiver Kenny Stills also endorsed the movie.
“Echo” has boosted its trailer count significantly in the last week, adding over 1 million trailer views and YouTube became a central part of the social strategy to appeal to younger and older audiences. On YouTube, “Echo” appealed to parents through a review from family man YouTuber Shay Carl, who posted to his 2.3 million subscribers and has racked up over 800,000 views so far, and also to kids through younger YouTuber JC Caylen, who already has over 200,000 views on his “Echo” review. Game-play YouTubers picked up the “Echo”-themed “Minecraft” mini-game and have driven hundreds of thousands of views on their videos, which aren’t included in the trailer view total here. MineCraft has played a large role in “Earth to Echo”’s appeal to younger viewers with users taking part in a livestream of the game on MLG yesterday and a “Minecraft-ified” TV spot going out.
Facebook has also positioned “Earth to Echo” as a good family movie, concentrating on highlighting positive reviews to appeal to adults, and sharing content for kids such as short videos and text-message screenshots of the movie characters’ phones, which tie into the movie’s plot. “Echo” has also created a strong following on Instagram, which is particularly popular among kids, and has now reached 18,000 fans after becoming the first movie to advertise to moms on Instagram.
There haven’t been many movies of “Echo’s” ilk recently, but the latest “Muppets” movie is another film which appeals to adults and to kids. That debuted with 12.5 million trailer views, 38,100 tweets and 44,400 searches and took $17 million, so while it was slightly ahead on two metrics, “Echo” should be able to make up any deficit over the extra holiday days and go even higher.
Final Expectations: Expect “Earth to Echo” to take off with at least $17 million this weekend, potentially topping $20 million.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of 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.