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.
“Focus,” Warner Bros.
Moviepilot Prediction: $19 million
“Focus” marks Will Smith’s first film since 2013’s “After Earth” underwhelmed at the domestic box office — this time in the guise of a conman opposite up-and-comer Margot Robbie. Moviegoers love a good con movie, as evidenced by the success of “American Hustle” and surprise hit “Now You See Me,” in 2013, which should help Smith at the box office this weekend.
Heavily leveraging the star power of Smith and his social clout, “Focus” has published the most recent trailers to his 76 million-strong Facebook page, adding at least another 20 million Facebook video views to the 20 million on YouTube. The “Focus” Facebook page has also been producing some engaging content like “The Pros of Cons” posts that highlight the successful schemes of real-life con artists.
“Focus” is seeing more modest numbers than the recent R-rated bloodfest “Kingsman: Secret Service,” which opened to $36 million with 27 million YouTube views and 110,000 Tweets recently. Instead, “Focus” is looking to break the $20 million mark.
“The Lazarus Effect,” Relativity
Moviepilot Prediction: $12 million
Sunday’s Oscars marked a watershed moment for Blumhouse as the company took home three statuettes for thriller “Whiplash,” including one for the excellent J.K. Simmons. “The Lazarus Effect” is a return to more familiar fare: a micro-budget horror movie, which looks set to repeat the success of last year’s “Oculus” and turn a solid profit on a small investment.
While the social metrics aren’t suggesting a breakout hit, “The Lazarus Effect’s” social campaign is a textbook example of how to leverage influencers to reach the coveted younger female demographic. This demo is essential to the success of a horror movie, and “The Lazarus Effect” has focused on channels and platforms where they are most active.
Madeyewlook produced a YouTube video on how to create the makeup effects worn by Olivia Wilde in the movie, and “The Lazarus Effect” partnered with several accounts to debut exclusives, such as a clip, photo and gifs on MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and Spike’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. “The Lazarus Effect” has harnessed fan creativity by pairing up Evan Peters with popular Tumblr artists Sam Cannon and Sandy Noto to create exclusive content, marking the first time the Tumblr’s Creatrs Network has collaborated directly with a film’s star to produce content for the platform. The stars of the movie also joined in skits with superstar Viners; the highlight was Logan Paul’s jumpy 10 million loops.
“The Lazarus Effect” is pacing well ahead of “Oculus” on YouTube and has around 5 million Facebook video views to boot — the latest currency in the increasingly busy social universe. However, with around 50% the Twitter volume, “The Lazarus Effect” looks set to come in around the same level as “Oculus,” with around $12 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.