Digital Tracking: Heaven, Hell and ‘Deadpool’ Face Off at the Box Office

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

The Witch Movie
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

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 are at their peak.

Risen,” Sony
Moviepilot Prediction: $8 million

While the monstrous “Deadpool” will lead the way by a wide distance again this weekend, three contrasting newcomers enter the fray. Sony has seen success with faith-based movies in recent years with “Heaven Is For Real” and “War Room,” which opened to over $11 million last summer. “Risen” could well be the best of the rest for the weekend with a take over $8 million.

Race,” Focus Features
Moviepilot Prediction: $8 million
*Full Disclosure: MoviePilot worked together with Focus Features on this campaign*

Telling the inspiring story of Jesse Owens, “Race” has enjoyed endorsements from some of today’s leading sports stars, including Richard Sherman and Odell Beckham Jr. “Race” should be set for at least $8 million this weekend, but an impressive YouTube count of 11 million could mean that the title is headed into double figures.

The Witch,” A24
Moviepilot Prediction: $3 million
*Full Disclosure: MoviePilot worked together with Focus Features on this campaign*

Completing the other half of this week’s heaven/hell opening movies, “The Witch” from A24 arrives off the back of rave reviews and a disturbing marketing campaign. However, the movie has not received endorsements from mainstream sports stars, but the Satanic Temple. The effect that might have on box office is hard to quantify! “The Witch” is opening on less than 2,000 screens, but should pull in core horror fans and cinephiles looking for a quality film and take more than $3 million.  

Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching more than 29 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 Focus Features, 20th Century Fox and A24.



Facebook fan (or like) numbers are a good indicator for fan awareness for a movie, even months before 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 have grown 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 toward 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.