Digital Tracking: ‘The Revenant’ Springs to Life in Wide Release

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

The Revenant Movie Reivew
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

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 Forest,” Gramercy
Moviepilot Prediction: $8 million
*Full disclosure: Moviepilot worked with Gramercy on this title*

“The Forest” takes its name from its setting in Aokigahara forest near Tokyo, Japan, which is fabled to be haunted by evil spirits and a frequent location for people to commit suicide. The campaign has focused on broadening awareness around the real life horror stories that exist around the forest, adding color to the myths that inspired the movie. This includes social graphics with spooky facts, a video with Buzzfeed and a “choose your own adventure” website where users can explore the forest themselves.

The target audience for this type of horror movie is typically younger and skewing female, and as such “The Forest” has been active on Instagram and has also integrated with Kik messenger to reach those audiences. Star of the show Natalie Dormer has been very active and has taken part in a Reddit AMA, taking advantage of her popularity from her role in “Game of Thrones.”

“The Forest” has driven solid Twitter activity and had a good response to the trailer, so we’d expect to see a weekend take in the region of $8-9 million.

Wide Expansion:
The Revenant,” 20th Century Fox
Moviepilot Prediction: $32 million
*Full disclosure: Moviepilot worked with 20th Century Fox on this title*

“The Revenant” has been playing in limited release for a few weeks now, but today expands onto even more screens than “The Forest.” The latest cinematic masterpiece from last year’s Oscar victor Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “The Revenant” has enjoyed widespread critical acclaim, including four Golden Globe noms, as well as nods from the PGA, SAG and Critics’ Choice Awards. All this awards fervor should see older and highbrow audiences turn out in droves.

As such, Twitter and Search activity are very impressive, in excess of the totals put up by Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight.” We’d expect to see “The Revenant” easily top $30 million for the weekend, and it could well also see Leo take home an Academy Award for his star performance.

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 who 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.