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.
“Pitch Perfect 2,” Universal
Moviepilot Prediction: $54 million
In the first of many big box office face-offs this year, the “Pitch Perfect 2” girls are set to pip past the boisterous Tom Hardy and “Mad Max: Fury Road” for the top spot. “Pitch Perfect 2” will take in well over $50 million and “Fury Road” has a shot at the same, but the action pic will likely come in with a total in the high 40s.
“Pitch Perfect 2” has run a stellar online campaign targeting its core demo of young women. While the channels that are now the mainstay of digital activity — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr — are all present and on-point, “Pitch Perfect 2” has taken advantage of the fresh marketing opportunities provided by the ever-changing digital landscape.
A custom “Pitch Perfect 2” Snapchat filter for the premiere (which also streamed live on Periscope) accompanied sponsored Snapchat stories, helping the movie amass an enormous 300,000 followers on its account. “Pitch Perfect 2” also had a branded article in partnership with Buzzfeed pushed out as part of this week’s introduction of Instant Articles, in addition to partnering with lip-syncing app Dubsmash and creating a .gif keyboard to allow fans to express themselves through the medium of amusing moving images from “Pitch Perfect.”
Stats-wise, “Pitch Perfect 2” is shaping up excellently with 276,000 tweets, coming up about 20% behind “Cinderella,” which opened to $67.9 million with 350,000 Tweets. This suggests we’ll be seeing an opening in the mid-50s this weekend.
“Mad Max: Fury Road,” Warner Bros.
Moviepilot Prediction: $48 million
Tom Hardy takes over the iconic role of Max Rockatansky from Mel Gibson, 30 years after George Miller first brought him to the screen. “Fury Road” is riding on a wave of hugely positive reviews coming into the weekend and should hold well, but its opening take will likely be slightly crimped by those persistent Avengers, who are still going strong in theaters in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
“Fury Road” is being fueled by a huge amount of activity online, as well as big pushes on TV. All the video distributed across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter has been cut specially to display well on mobile devices, with shaking images bursting out of the screen to grab the user’s attention. The official Tumblr is full of striking imagery, as well as a page to display fan art and a photo filter for people to create their own “Mad Max”-themed images.
All told, “Fury Road” is packing a mighty punch on social, with more than 62 million trailer views, 344,000 Tweets and 292,000 searches. Using last year’s “Godzilla” as a yardstick puts “Fury Road” around that $50 million mark — “Godzilla” opened to $93.1 million off 574,000 Tweets and 463,000 searches. We’d expect the three-week-old “Age of Ultron” to take the edge off that figure, however, leaving “Fury Road” to pull up with $48 million in the tank.
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 including Universal, 20th Century Fox and A24.
Facebook fan (or like) numbers are a good indicator for fan awareness for a movie, even months before release. For mainstream movies with younger target audiences, fan counts are particularly important. Big fan numbers can be bought, however, 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 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 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.