Digital Tracking: Paul Blart Goes Head-to-Head With ‘Unfriended’

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

Digital Tracking: Paul Blart Goes Head--Head

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.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Sony
Moviepilot Prediction: $18 million

Kevin James rides again as rotund mall cop Paul Blart, six years after the first movie opened to a very successful $31.8 million. James has formed the backbone of the online campaign, with his quips and slapstick being the main draw for fans, including a specially cut dance-off trailer, “2 Blart 2 Furious,” playing off the success of “Furious 7.” This also helped push Facebook video views past the YouTube count, with 16.4 million on Facebook to 9.2 million on YouTube.

Comparing YouTube trailer views to other recent comedies sees “Mall Cop 2” heading for $17 million-$18 million. It’s neck and neck with “Night at the Museum,” which opened to $17.1 million at the back end of last year, and slightly behind “The Wedding Ringer” (14.5 million views), which opened just north of $20 million.

Unfriended, Universal
Moviepilot Prediction: $17 million
(Full disclosure: Moviepilot worked with Universal on this title).

“Unfriended” is the latest micro-budget Blumhouse movie set to make a killing. The movie takes place on one computer screen, and the plot unfolds across several social-media platforms, so it’s no surprise that “Unfriended” is driving a huge amount of social activity among young audiences.

As they did for both “Purge” movies, Universal has created a very creepy campaign for “Unfriended,” pushing short videos heavily through Facebook and Instagram — Facebook has delivered 58 million views, more than twice the 25 million score on YouTube. “Unfriended” has also built up a solid 25,000 followers on Instagram. At 192,000 Tweets, “Unfriended” has almost exactly the same amount of activity as “Ouija,” which opened to $19.9 million, suggesting a similar total just shy of $20 million.

Monkey Kingdom, Disney
Moviepilot Prediction: $5 million

“Monkey Kingdom” is Disney’s latest nature documentary, following last year’s “Bears.” “Monkey Kingdom” is generating more Twitter activity, suggesting it should top the opening $4.7 million from “Bears.”

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 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.