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Digital Tracking: ‘SpongeBob’ Sequel to Soak Up Box Office

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.

“SpongeBob SquarePants: Sponge Out of Water,” Paramount
Moviepilot Prediction: $32 million

SpongeBob’s family appeal will send his sequel to the top of the box office this weekend with well over $30 million. The movie’s mobile app, trailers and clips have had plenty of gags for kids, while there’s been a series of spoof movie posters and Buzzfeed articles for more mature SpongeBobbers online. “SpongeBob” has worked from social accounts separate from those of the Nickelodeon TV show, including building a solid following on Instagram, where younger audiences are more active. Overall, the numbers look similar to “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” which opened to $32.2 million last year with 39,600 tweets and 59,000 searches, but only 15 million trailer views, suggesting “SpongeBob” could soak in more than that total.

Jupiter Ascending,” Warner Bros.
Moviepilot Prediction: $15 million

Popular on Variety

Sci-fi titans the Wachowskis return for the first time since “Cloud Atlas” with “Jupiter Ascending,” which was pushed back from last summer. While the trailers promise a typical action-packed foray into the sci-fi universe, social channels have focused on highlighting the popularity of the cast: Mila Kunis hosted a Reddit AMA, the legendary Sean Bean answered questions on Twitter, and Douglas Booth was available everywhere, interacting with fans on Facebook as well as on Twitter. Stats-wise, with 117,000 searches, “Jupiter Ascending” is running at about half the volume of “Edge of Tomorrow” and a third the size of “Pacific Rim,” which clocked 267,000 and 387,000 searches, respectively, pointing at an opening of $15 million.

Seventh Son,” Universal, Legendary
Moviepilot Prediction: $6.5 million

The second of the CGI-wielding sci-fi fantasy epics releasing this weekend, “Seventh Son” will have a tough time luring audiences away from “SpongeBob” and “Jupiter Ascending.” The campaign made an effort to engage female audiences with a Mom Bloggers Club Twitter party and has put its biggest stars, Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore, front and center, rather than younger lead Ben Barnes. While “Seventh Son’s” YouTube views are almost on par with “Hercules” from last year, the buzz score is far lower. Instead, “Seventh Son” is looking closer to “I, Frankenstein,” which was slightly ahead with 24,500 Tweets and 83,900 on search, to open to $8.6 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.

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Appendix

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.

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