Digital Tracking: Three New Releases Brave the Box Office Storm

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

Dirty Grandpa
Courtesy of Lionsgate

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.

The Boy,” STX
Moviepilot Prediction: $12 million

“The Boy” is the latest movie from fledgling studio STX, which will be looking to repeat the success of “The Gift” from last summer, which opened to $11.8 million. The digital campaign has focused on fleshing out the backstory behind “Brahms,” the creepy doll at the center of the movie, and engaging the younger audiences who drive the box office of modern horror titles.

The movie was extensively screened with the “Hometown Premieres” program in conjunction with DigiTour, where fans were able to watch the movie with their favorite social media influencers. The screenings were eventized with red carpets, swag and meet-and-greets, activating influencers with a total reach of over 90 million.

“The Boy” worked with Wattpad writers to release a multi-chapter backstory titled, “What Happened to Him?,” which delves into the troubled past of our boy Brahms, when he was a “real” boy before being mysteriously replaced by a porcelain doll. There was also a Tumblr fan art contest encouraging users to submit their most creatively unsettling art of what happens when Brahms’ “rules” aren’t followed. Social has featured videos detailing Brahms’ “rules,” as well as teasing rumors about what happened to the real boy who he replaced.

“The Boy” is shaping up very similarly to “The Forest” from the first week of the year, so we’d expect to see Brahms scare up over $12 million this weekend.

Dirty Grandpa,” Lionsgate
Moviepilot Prediction: $14 million

“Dirty Grandpa” sees Robert De Niro and Zac Efron pair up for the party to end all parties, heading down to Daytona Beach for some spring break fun.

Social has pushed the funniest moments from the trailer with colorful gifs and videos showcasing the movie’s filthy humor, as well as a Snapchat lens which was available Thursday. “Dirty Grandpa” has produced a series of custom videos including an investigation into old people’s behavior, grandparents playing drinking games and the plot of the movie as a dirty children’s book. De Niro and Efron also appeared together on FunnyOrDie.    

“Dirty Grandpa” is stacking up similarly to “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” which opened with over $12 million last year, so we’d expect to see the raunchy comedy open with at least $11 million this weekend.

The 5th Wave,” Sony
Moviepilot Prediction: $10 million

“The 5th Wave” is the movie adaptation of Rick Yancey’s popular YA book, starring Chloe Grace Moretz as the protagonist Cassie. In order to reach the younger audience, which is the main target group for the movie, fans have been able to create their own fan fiction on Wattpad, submit fan art on Tumblr and tweet to win a screening of the movie in their city. The movie has a substantial presence on Instagram and Moretz took over the Entertainment Weekly Instagram account herself to promote the movie. This weekend the marketplace is a crowded one for young audiences, but with impressive Twitter volume we’d expect “The 5th Wave” to take over $10 million, if the storms on the East Coast hold off.

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 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 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.