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Digital Tracking: Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ Launches at No. 1

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

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 are at their peak.

The Martian,” 20th Century Fox
Moviepilot Prediction: $46 million
*Full Disclosure* Moviepilot worked with 20th Century Fox on this title.

Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” finally arrives in theaters this weekend amid much critical fanfare and is set for a tussle with “Gravity” for the title of top October opener. While “The Martian” will draw many comparisons with Cuaron’s lauded Oscar-winner due to its subject matter and box office gross, Scott’s movie is actually very different. “The Martian” promises a fresh, hopeful take on the genre and delivers thanks to its diverse and talented cast.

“The Martian” launches off the back off a very successful in-universe viral campaign. The YouTube channel “ARES: live” features a series of videos from the crew of the space shuttle, as if the mission were really happening. The indomitable Neil deGrasse Tyson presents a video in this series and his episode garnered over 1 million views. The final video released this week even takes place during the movie, revealing just a little of the movie’s plot. “The Martian” has also released a glossy NASA-style mission guide, as well as amusing our office with the “Bring Meme Home” campaign, where fans can create their own versions of the official movie poster, starring themselves.

“The Martian” is a lock for No. 1 this weekend with 180,000 tweets and 186,000 searches, suggesting it is on its way to a start in the mid-40s, just shy of “Gravity’s” October record. “Gravity” also enjoyed an IMAX bounty, which won’t be afforded “The Martian” due to “The Walk” and “Everest” occupying those screens. Rave reviews and a strong Thursday night start point to good holds and we’d expect to see a big cumulative total over the next few weeks.


Sicario,” Lionsgate
Moviepilot Prediction: $15 million
(First week in wide release)

Sicario” has been lighting up theaters in limited release over the past two weeks, pulling in very impressive numbers and enjoying almost exclusively stellar reviews since its debut at TIFF. Digitally, “Sicario” has leveraged social platforms in order to promote the positive responses from critics and fans alike, who both praise the performances of the cast, Roger Deakins’ cinematography and repeatedly peg the movie as one of 2015’s best. While it’s hard to get a true handle on the social numbers as the movie has been out for two weeks and has generated a considerable amount of social chatter, the totals of over 38,000 tweets and 78,000 searches suggest “Sicario” is set for an impressive opening in the mid-teens.  


Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching more than 29 million Facebook fans and 30 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 Focus Features, 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 have grown 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 toward 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.

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