Digital Tracking: ‘Minions’ to Take Over the Box Office and the World

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

Minions Movie
Courtesy of Universal

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.

Minions,” Universal
Moviepilot Prediction: $115 million

Universal is enjoying a bountiful 2015 at the box office: The studio has four of the year’s 10 top-grossing movies so far, including the record-breaking “Jurassic World,” with the mighty “Minions” on deck this weekend. Pixar’s “Inside Out” has been tussling with the prehistoric sequel for the top spot in theaters over the last few frames, but “Minions” is set to end that battle in style and shoot past “Inside Out” to score the year’s top animated opening.

The minions themselves are the most popular characters to spring from the wildly successful “Despicable Me” franchise, and the little yellow fellows have driven a tidal wave of social activity. They’ve had friends helping them, with tie-ins with prominent Snapchat stars such as Chriscarm and Shonduras, and fans sharing their own Minion images. Minions have also taken over Moviepilot’s twin home cities, with posters decking out Berlin’s metro stations and quite literally taking over L.A.’s Cinerama Dome.

“Minions” are riding high off a sensational 178 million Facebook video views as well as 144 million YouTube views, and a mighty impressive 894,000 tweets. These numbers are sure to send them well into nine figures for the weekend — we think this could go as high as $115 million.

The Gallows,” Warner Bros.
Moviepilot Prediction: $10 million

Low-budget horror specialists Blumhouse return with “The Gallows” which enters theaters off the back of a very creepy marketing campaign. The teaser was an exercise in tension, and subsequent clips and trailers have embraced the movie’s spooky signature blood red lens filter.

“The Gallows” was also behind the viral “Charlie Charlie Challenge,” which spooked thousands of social-media users earlier this year. Stacking 175,000 tweets for “The Gallows” up against 118,000 for “Poltergeist” and 192,000 for “Unfriended” suggests that it’s headed for a $10 million opening, a huge win off a tiny budget.

Self/Less,” Focus Features
Moviepilot Prediction: $6 million

“Self/Less,” starring Ryan Reynolds, is taking aim at an older male audience who shouldn’t be too preoccupied by much else in theaters this weekend, since the main competitors are family movies and a horror pic targeting teens. Gamers will be a core crowd, and to court that demo, “Self/Less” sponsored E3 on video game streaming site “Twitch.” There’s also a neat tie-in guestimating how long you’d last as Reynolds’ character in the movie (I make it a cool 68 years!). Having driven 11,000 tweets and more than 1,000 searches, “Self/Less” looks set to hit around $6 million this weekend.

Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching over 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 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.