Digital Tracking: ‘Maze Runner’ to Survive Box Office Scorch Trial

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

Maze Runner Scorch Trials Trailer
Couretsy of 20th Century Fox

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.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” 20th Century Fox
Moviepilot Prediction: $33 million

Last summer, the first “Maze Runner” surprised many with a fantastic $32 million opening and this weekend’s sequel, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” looks set to top that with an even more impressive take.

While YA book-to-film adaptations may be all the rage in the wake of the mega successful “Twilight” and “Hunger Games” franchises, “Maze Runner” stands apart from the pack with its male lead and more bloodthirsty aesthetic, appealing more to male audiences as much as to young women. While younger females may be fans of Dylan O’Brien from MTV’s “Teen Wolf” or know the movie from its presence on teen websites, the cast has also been active playing video games on male-focussed IGN. They have all appeared on AOL’s the build, as this installment has made a play for older male audiences, although success in that demo may be eroded by “Black Mass,” which also opens today.

We’d expect “Scorch Trials” to top the original, with an impressive Tweet count of 334,000, comparing very favorably to the 265,000 tweets generated by the original.

“Black Mass,” Warner Bros
Moviepilot Prediction: $25 million

Oscar season opens in earnest with “Black Mass,” the story of real-life gangster Whitey Bulger, which comes armed with a heavyweight cast and up-and-coming director Scott Cooper. Johnny Depp plays the starring role, although his star has waned of late with a series of less-than-impressive box office performances. However, we’d see this as somewhat of a return to “Blow” form for the perennial screen favorite, with impressive social stats including over 20 million trailer views across Facebook and Twitter. “Black Mass” should perform strongest among older males, so with search well ahead of “Southpaw’s” 85,000, we’re looking at an opening around $18 million.

Captive,” Paramount
Moviepilot Prediction: $5 million

“Captive” will be looking to follow in the footsteps of “War Room,” which opened very strongly to $11.3 million a few weeks back. While a total that high looks slightly out of reach, the movie inspired by the book “The Purpose Driven Life” is set for a solid start in less than 1,000 theaters. We see “Captive” coming in with at least $5 million for the weekend off the back of an impressive 5 million trailer views on YouTube and Facebook.


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 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 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 who 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.