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.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson faces off against two foes as Hercules: Scarlett Johansson goes one-on-one with The Great One as ass-kicking sci-fi star “Lucy” and Kellen Lutz, who played the same role in “Legend of Hercules” earlier this year. The “Twilight” favorite fought his way to an $8.8 million opening. It seems certain that WWE’s most electrifying man in all of entertainment will win the “Hercules” battle, but who will win this weekend’s war?
The Atlas-sian shoulders of Johnson have carried the weight of the marketing campaign. His dietary regimen has been documented in images, videos and articles on TeamHercules.com and featured on sites such as fitocracy, as part of the #TeamHercules push. One lean YouTuber even went as far as to mimic the main man’s diet for a day. And naturally, the People’s Champion also took to Reddit for an excellent AMA which also featured a cameo from Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On YouTube, “Hercules” is looking much stronger than “Legend of Hercules,” with 39.7 million trailer views to 13.7 million, and on Buzz “Hercules” still has a 0.1% lead over “Legend,” a substantial advantage. Clips have been pushed on Facebook so their views aren’t included in this total, such as this short tying in to last week’s Home Run Derby. Allied to a search volume over three times the size, this comparison suggests “Hercules” should be headed for a total around $24 million.
Te biggest sword and sandals hit so far this year has been the return of the Spartans in “300: Rise of an Empire” which opened to $45 million. As a franchise movie, “300” leveraged its existing audience and lengthy, drawn out buildup after its release date was pushed back, to rack up massive social numbers, with 63 million trailer views and 189,000 searches, the main indicators of its strength pre-release. Measuring “Hercules'” search of 124,000 against “300” again suggests the Greek legend will make somewhere between $22 and $24 million this weekend.
Final expectations: Dwayne Johnson’s “Hercules” will rock Kellen Lutz’s “Legend” on his way to a total in the mid-20s.
Scarlett Johansson has cemented her role as the ultimate badass sci-fi star this year after her Black Widow stole the show in Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and she headed up “Under The Skin” as a beautiful, murderous alien. A win this weekend against “Hercules” would be the crowning glory on “Lucy’s” head, and she’s only unlocked some of her potential — what happens at 100%?
“Lucy” has performed well on YouTube, driving over 41 million trailer views with a slightly above average Buzz rating, suggesting fans like what they see. “Lucy” has also promoted a lot of video content across Facebook which isn’t included in the total here, as well as creating a spoof trailer with YouTuber nigahiga which has driven over 2 million views. Clips have also been released on websites with large younger male fanbases such as IGN.com and AskMen. “Lucy’s” Tumblr, Vine and Instagram accounts showcasing the strong visuals of the movie have added appeal to younger audiences.
While “Lucy” doesn’t have the weight of a franchise name like “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” behind it, she should top Tom Cruise’s “Edge of Tomorrow,” which is the best original sci-fi of the year so far after it opened to $28.7 million. “Edge” has a greater appeal to older audiences, as shown by the 267,000 searches to “Lucy’s” 132,000, but “Lucy’s” video count is way ahead with 41 million views to “Edge’s” 34.4 million, with a significantly lower Buzz at 0.28%. Despite the lower search suggesting “Lucy” doesn’t hold the same appeal among older audiences, the strong YouTube numbers indicate “Lucy” should be heading for an opening total in the mid-30s.
Final expectations: “Lucy” will unlock her potential to defeat “Hercules” and make around $32 million.
“And So It Goes”
While it’s been acknowledged that older demographics still make up a large portion of movie-going audiences, films specifically targeting this demographic are scarce. This year’s first wide-release actually created for this target group is the geriatric-aimed “And So It Goes,” which is in stark contrast to the adrenaline-fueled “Lucy” and “Hercules” showing on other screens this weekend.
As you’d expect for a movie with an older target demographic, “And So It Goes” has modest social numbers, focusing instead on marketing in more traditional formats with a takeover on movietickets.com, as well as offline. Last year’s films dedicated to the baby-boomer set, “The Big Wedding” and “Last Vegas,” both had larger Facebook pages of 87,000 and 52,000 respectively, as well as higher searches, each in the low 30,000s.
Much of the online marketing has centered on director Rob Reiner, calling out his past successes with films like “When Harry Met Sally,” which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. He even has a video “welcoming” fans to the “And So It Goes” Facebook page.
A total of 240,000 YouTube views, coupled with a 1,000 strong Facebook presence and around 6,800 searches suggest that “And So It Goes” will likely come in below “The Big Wedding’s” take of $7.6 million. Opening in 1,800 theaters, “And So It Goes” is headed for a total around $3-4 million.
Final expectations: Rob Reiner looks set to take up to $4 million for “And So It Goes” this weekend.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of http://www.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.