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.
“San Andreas,” WB
Moviepilot Prediction: $35 million
It’s now the unofficial start of summer, and “San Andreas” is the latest adrenaline-fueled action flick hitting theaters as we head into the heart of the blockbuster season. It’s Dwayne Johnson’s second big-screen appearance this season, after April’s “Furious 7.” This time he’s front and center, out promoting in full force.
Leveraging the full brunt of his mountain of social media followers, “the Rock” is throwing every selfie and hashtag toward hyping “San Andreas” to his fans. At the world premiere of the film in London last week, he broke the Guinness World Record for the most selfies taken in three minutes (now 105). He also hosted a “San Andreas” fan event and streamed it live via Periscope for all the Internet to follow.
Compared to last year’s “Hercules,” which Johnson also headlined, “San Andreas” is shaping up well. “Andreas” is on par with YouTube views compared to the 39.7 million from “Hercules,” and it’s slightly ahead on Twitter and Search, where “Hercules” had 157,000 and 124,000, respectively. Using “Hercules” as a benchmark and taking into account that “San Andreas” has focused heavily on Facebook video views with over 85 million, it’s looking to shake up $35 million at the box office this weekend.
Moviepilot Prediction: $8 million
For quieter, calmer fare, both in concept and on social media, Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha” also comes to theaters this weekend, boasting a stunning locale and a star-studded cast led by Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone.
Touted as “the summer’s smartest romantic comedy,” “Aloha” has partnered with popular Pinterest users to create boards inspired by the movie, appealing to its female fan base. Columbia Pictures also partnered with Fleetwit, a site where users “race” through online challenges to win prizes, for a race based on the “Aloha” trailer.
“Aloha” is on track to mirror the trajectory of “This is Where I Leave You,” which opened to $11.6 million and scored 44,700 on Search. Similarly, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” which opened to $12.8 million in 2013, had nearly as many YouTube views (12 million) to “Aloha’s” (14 million), but had a higher Buzz score and fared better on both Twitter and Search. Given these stats, “Aloha” should come in a bit below this weekend, opening to $8 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 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 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.