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.
“Project Almanac,” Paramount
Moviepilot Prediction: $18 million
“Project Almanac” is a teen-focused, found-footage time-travel movie that tells the story of high school kids who stumble upon a time machine and use it like only teenagers would. For older viewers, the movie is chock-full of references to other genre classics such as “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Back to the Future.”
In the build-up to Super Bowl weekend, “Project Almanac” has relentlessly pursued younger audiences by tapping into modern trends and technologies, capturing the attention of the target demo by aligning the movie with products and apps they engage with daily: There have been sneak peeks of the movie on Snapchat, ads served by music streaming services Spotify and Pandora, activations with YikYak and Wattpad, and videos produced with YouTube influencers such as Smosh and Alexis G. Zall.
“Chronicle” and “Looper” both broke $20 million on their opening weekends, and “Project Almanac” is set to come very close to those totals. The last time-travel data-point we have is last year’s “Earth to Echo,” which opened with $8.3 million. “Project Almanac” is pacing well ahead of that film, with 17.7 million trailer views and 48,000 searches, where “Earth to Echo” had 11.6 million trailers and 20,100 searches. This data suggests that “Project Almanac” is headed for an opening of around $18 million.
“Black or White,” Relativity
Moviepilot Prediction: $6 million
“Black or White” stars Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer, and as the title suggests, deals with a topic that has featured heavily in the headlines over the last few months. Costner has pounded the pavement in support of the movie, including hosting a Q&A on the IMDb Facebook page. Costner has strong appeal to older audiences, and last year he starred in “Draft Day,” which opened to $9.7 million, and “3 Days to Kill,” which started at $12.2 million. Stacking “Black or White” up against those titles suggests an opening of around $6 million.
“The Loft,” Open Road
Moviepilot Prediction: $3 million
“The Loft” is a remake of a Belgian thriller that interestingly retains the same director and actor Matthias Schoenaerts from the original, while adding Karl Urban and James Marsden. “The Loft” has an impressive presence on Pinterest fleshing out the world in which the movie exists and a slick Tumblr homepage. Social stats see it tracking a little behind “Blackhat” from earlier this year, with 24,400 searches vs. 51,400 for “Blackhat.” This suggests an opening on the high end of $2 million-$3 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.