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.
“Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” Paramount
Moviepilot Prediction: $14 million
The “Hot Tub” boys are back for another whirl around the time machine, four years after the original opened to $14 million, and the sequel looks set to match that total. “Hot Tub 2” will be looking to build off the fanbase generated by the original, which stands at a hefty 1 million strong on Facebook.
Word of mouth is key for a comedy, and “Hot Tub 2” has used Twitter to spread positive sentiment around the movie, extensively retweeting fan reactions and having characters take over the account in their voice to drive activity. “Hot Tub 2” also hosted giant hot tub parties on university campuses where hundreds of students dived in to drive chatter around the movie.
“Hot Tub 2” has stirred up over 15,000 tweets, closing in on totals put up by last year’s R-rated comedies “Sex Tape,” with 21,200 tweets, and “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” with 26,600. Those movies opened with $14.6 million and $16.7 million, respectively, suggesting “Hot Tub 2” will come in around that level.
“The Duff,” CBS Films
Moviepilot Prediction: $8 million
“The Duff” is the PG-13-rated comedy counterpart to “Hot Tub 2” this weekend, aiming at younger females with a focus on teens, while “Hot Tub 2” will be looking to males and those who saw the first installment a few years back. “The Duff” has employed a quirky campaign featuring a lot of pizza parties and pectoral muscles to attract the attention of younger moviegoers.
Socially “The Duff” has leveraged newer platforms such as Snapchat to reach the target audience where they are most active, as well as building a following on Instagram, and tapping into channels on more established platforms where the fanbase remains young and engaged, for example making use of Facebook’s native video push to get eyes on a cast Q&A with Popsugar.
Twitter is the key indicator of interest here, and with 82,600 Tweets, “The Duff” is shaping up similarly to “That Awkward Moment,” which opened to $8.7 million with 67,400 tweets in its first week of release. “The Duff” is running at just over 50% the volume of “If I Stay” and has more than doubled “Vampire Academy,” both of which targeted younger females, suggesting an opening of around $8.5 million.
“McFarland USA,” Disney
Moviepilot Prediction: $9.5 million
Inspired by a true story, “McFarland, USA” follows Kevin Costner as the coach of a team of Mexican-American runners who overcome the odds to become cross-country champions.
Twitter has been used to spread the good word of mouth coming out of advanced screenings for schools and sports teams around the country, in addition to cross-platform sweepstakes that promote entrants’ participation on Twitter, Instagram and Vine. To further appeal to the film’s Latino target audience, the movie is available in Spanish — “McFarland, USA” will be the first major studio release to utilize myLINGO, a new app that allows theatergoers to hear a film dubbed in a language other than English in real time.
On social, “McFarland, USA” is looking similar to last year’s feel-good sports drama “Million Dollar Arm,” which had a slightly higher YouTube count with a similar Buzz score and 18,700 Tweets on release and took in $10.5 million. It’s also looking a little better than Costner’s “Black or White,” which released a couple of weeks ago to $6.2 million with 22,400 on Search. Considering this, “McFarland” will see an opening weekend starting at $9.5 million this weekend.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching over 28 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 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.