Digital Tracking: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Set for Weekend Domination

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


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.

Fifty Shades of Grey,” Universal
Moviepilot 3-day Prediction: $97 million

It doesn’t get much bigger than this: E.L. James’ pop culture phenomenon finally hits theaters this weekend for Valentine’s Day, and the digital numbers only serve to give credence to the massive hype surrounding the movie. Over 200 million trailer views and 1.78 million tweets will launch Mr. Grey and Ms. Steele into the high $90 million range for the weekend, approaching territory occupied by the biggest franchises of recent years such as “Twilight,” “Harry Potter” and “The Hunger Games.”

The seductive world of Christian Grey has been fleshed out with a virtual tour of his apartment and a detailed Pinterest account, themed around the movie and targeting the platform’s heavily female-skewing audience. “Fifty Shades” marketing has been inescapable, as reflected in the enormous tweet count, way ahead of the 1.2 million generated by “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part One.” “Fifty Shades” also has more than double the trailer views that the last “Hunger Games” film drummed up, but its total will be curtailed somewhat by its R rating.

“Fifty Shades” does have almost twice the search volume of R-rated “Gone Girl,” the acclaimed adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s book, which opened to $37.5 million last year with a strong showing from female audiences. “Gone Girl” had 204,000 searches over release week, while “Fifty Shades” has come in with around 400,000. These enormous stats strongly suggest an opening in the high $90 million range, possibly topping $100 million for the four-day weekend.

Kingsman: The Secret Service,” 20th Century Fox
Moviepilot 3-day Prediction: $27 million
(Full disclosure: Moviepilot worked with 20th Century Fox on this title)

“Kingsman” has done a great job of positioning itself as the alternative to “Fifty Shades” this weekend. The action-packed modern take on the spy genre will be buoyed with its target male audiences by the cachet Matthew Vaughn enjoys from directing fanboy favorites “X-Men: First Class” and “Kick-Ass.”

“Kingsman” has been widely screened to drive word of mouth, quite literally in the case of a partnership with Uber, where fans were able to ride to the previews in 50 cities. A slick interactive site offers you the chance to test your skills as a potential Kingsman agent by syncing your desktop and mobile phone, and if you don’t make the grade but still want to look the part, you can invest in a wardrobe full of apparel inspired by Colin Firth’s classy character.

“Kingsman” has solid stats across the board, with 149,000 searches suggesting stronger interest among older audiences than “Maze Runner,” which opened to $32.5 million with 116,000 searches. “Maze Runner,” however, performed very strongly with younger audiences, and leads on Twitter with 352,000 tweets to 88,000. “Kingsman” will be looking to activate fanboy audiences this weekend, and with around half the social volume overall of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,”  “Kingsman” looks set for an opening at around $30 million.

Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching over 28 million Facebook fans and 20 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 Sony, 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 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.