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 release, when marketing campaigns should be at their peak.
“Ted 2,” Universal
Moviepilot Prediction: $42 million
Back in 2012, “Ted” became one of the highest-grossing R-rated comedies of all time, opening to $54 million off the back of an award-winning marketing campaign. “Ted 2” opens between the rock of “Jurassic World” and the hard place of “Inside Out,” so it will be a tough feat to claim first place this weekend.
“Ted” was a social-media sensation thanks to its protagonist Facebooking and tweeting in character, and he’s kept it up this time around. There’s even a change.org petition to give the foul-mouthed bear human rights, playing off the plot of the movie. However, he’ll have a hard time reaching a similar total due to the other monster movies currently in theaters.
Comparing “Ted 2” to other comedy sequels from the last couple of years suggests an opening in the mid-40s. “Dumb and Dumber To” opened to $36.1 million with very similar Twitter volume and a slight lead on search. “22 Jump Street” opened to a massive $57.1 million last year with a huge 471,000 tweets and 124,000 searches, a massive jump from the original. “Ted 2” is well ahead of Seth MacFarlane’s last effort, “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” which opened to $16.8 million with 15.2 million YouTube views and 26,600 tweets.
“Max,” Warner Bros.
Moviepilot Prediction: $10.5 million
Warner Bros.’ “Max” tells the story of a military dog who returns home after serving on the front lines in Afghanistan. “Max” stacks up with about 70% of the social activity of “Dolphin Tale 2,” which opened to $15.9 million. But it is well ahead of “When the Game Stands Tall” on Twitter by more than 10,000 tweets, plus 50% more search volume than “Earth to Echo.” Both of those movies opened to $8.4 million, suggesting “Max” should top $10 million this weekend.
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 its 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.