Digital Tracking: ‘Sinister 2’ to Scare the Competition to Death

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

Sinister 2 trailer
Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures

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.

Sinister 2,” Focus Features
Moviepilot Prediction: $15 million

“Sinister 2” sees the return of the demon Bughuul and more macabre, murdering kids. But Ethan Hawke, who led the first movie, won’t be back; Shannyn Sossamon takes over for him. Focus and Blumhouse will be looking to repeat the success they had earlier this year with horror sequel “Insidious: Chapter 3,” and “Sinister 2” is performing strongly enough to be the top opener this weekend — over 50,000 tweets and 40,500 searches should see it come up with over $15 million.

American Ultra,” Lionsgate
Moviepilot Prediction: $10 million

“American Ultra” reunites lovable odd couple Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart for the first time since they starred as the lovable odd couple in “Adventureland” six years back. Now all grown up and all too fond of the herb, Stewart is the girlfriend to Eisenberg’s stoner sleeper agent, who happens to be part of a secret CIA program that the government has now decided to terminate.

“American Ultra” should motivate the stoner audience to leave the couch: Fans at SDCC were able to request their very own delivery of “American Ultra” brand weed by downloading an app and presenting their medical marijuana card. With over 25 million trailer views across Facebook and Twitter as well as 38,800 searches, “American Ultra” should be set to take home $10 million, an eighth and a bag of frozen Totino’s pizza rolls this weekend.

“Hitman: Agent 47,” 20th Century Fox
Moviepilot Prediction: $13 million

“Hitman: Agent 47” is the second movie to be based on the “Hitman” video game franchise, now receiving an update with Rupert Friend as the genetically enhanced killer. “Agent 47” has tapped into that gaming audience using a collaboration with live-streaming gaming site Twitch — part of the “47 Days of Hitman” campaign in which new content was released every day, like a digital advent calendar counting down toward release. Fans enjoyed new clips, a “Mad Men“-style trailer, tie-ins with micro-influencers and much more. “Hitman: Agent 47” has clocked 61,600 searches, around half the volume generated by “Kingsman: A Secret Service,” which had a similar vibe. This should see “Hitman: Agent 47” steal away with around $13 million for the 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 Focus Features.



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 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 towards 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.