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.
It literally doesn’t get any bigger than this! “Age of Ultron” is finally here, and it’s all set to shatter the box office opening weekend record of $207.4 million, set three years ago by the first “Avengers.” Anticipation is at a fever pitch among fans, thanks to Marvel’s incredibly strong brand and a mighty marketing campaign, which will combine to smash the old record by $20 million.
Marvel and Disney allow fans to partake actively in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so they’re no longer fenced-off onlookers but actual participants in the franchise. Fans were asked to tweet to release the second trailer (after the first “leaked”) as part of the first-ever “flock to unlock” partnership with the platform; they responded in droves, sending more than 100,000 tweets before the new footage was unleashed. The most popular characters also have their own Twitter accounts, such as this one for Iron Man where Tony Stark tweets in character.
On social, “Ultron” has no parallel, even towering over the “Furious 7” behemoth that has been dominating theaters for the past month. More than 1.5 million tweets and 1.3 million searches are shooting “Ultron” into the social ether. “Furious 7” recently made $147.1 million off the back of 1.03 million tweets and 360,000 searches, and “Transformers: Age of Extinction” cracked $100 million off 550,000 tweets and 484,000 searches last year. “Ultron” is on pace to generate more than twice that volume, suggesting a total well over $200 million.
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 such as Universal, 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 more than 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 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.