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.
“Kung Fu Panda 3” is set to brave the winter cold and climb its way to top spot at the box office this weekend with a take of over $50 million. Po the panda is currently pacing very similarly to “Home,” which opened to $52.1 million for Dreamworks Animation and 20th Century Fox early last year.
Social has played a large role in re-activating franchise fans and letting them know that a new adventure is on the way: over New Year’s weekend, Snapchat made four custom “Kung Fu Panda 3” filters, which were designed by Snapchat influencers, available to fans so they could wish each other a happy new year in style. This is in addition to a set of “Kung Fu Panda 3” Facebook stickers, a feature which is used by millions on Facebook Messenger every month.
Kids (and parents of course) have also been able to play in the Panda Village on Minecraft – and you can believe this game is popular with kids – and new character Mei Mei also does her best Jenna Marbles impression, introducing herself via a series of vlogs on YouTube.
“Kung Fu Panda 3” is a shoo-in for top spot this weekend; the only question is how high over $50 million Po is able to climb?
Popular on Variety
“Fifty Shades of Black,” Open Road
Moviepilot Prediction: $12 million
Marlon Wayans returns this weekend with “Fifty Shades of Black,” his own tongue-in-cheek take on last year’s box office romp “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Wayans has put the full weight of his social presence behind the campaign, tapping into his millions of followers on Twitter, and using Instagram to publicize positive fan reviews of the movie. Wayans also took part in a Reddit AMA as well as a Twitter Q&A with AMC cinemas.
Interestingly, from a social media standpoint, the movie also stars King Bach, the Vine star with the most loops, who also has a significant presence across YouTube and other socials. Tapping into his millions of social followers provides access to a whole new audience outside of the Wayans’ fanbase. “Fifty Shades of Black” should be good for a take around $12 million for the weekend.
“The Finest Hours,” Disney
Moviepilot Prediction: $9 million
“The Finest Hours” tells the true story of a rescue mission to save the crews of oil tankers destroyed by storms off the coast of Cape Cod. The movie has an all-star cast who have appeared extensively across digital, with lead Chris Pine taking part in a Q&A on the Entertainment Weekly tumblr and the whole crew answering people’s questions on Facebook. “The Finest Hours” has solid search volume and is looking good for a take just shy of $10 million for the weekend.
“Jane Got A Gun,” Weinstein
Moviepilot Prediction: $3 million
“Jane Got A Gun” finally sees a wide release with the Weinstein Company. Debuting on over 1,000 screens, the star power of Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor could see “Jane Got A Gun” pull in as much as $3 million for the weekend.
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.