Does digital data offer indicators that can be used to monitor marketing effectiveness and predict box office success? We analyzed 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.
"Devil's Due" will look to attract the January horror audience that "Mama" and "The Devil Inside" have both thrived on in recent years. Taking a cue from the "Carrie" viral video back in October, "Devil's Due" released their own Devil-baby viral video on Tuesday. The video, both hysterical and a little horrifying, has already reached an astounding 29 million views - boosting the overall view count to over 35 million, making up for an initial below-average trailer count. Smartly revealed only three days before the release date (versus "Carrie's" 11 days), the video is memorable enough to drive at least some of those extra viewers to the box office.
"Devil's Due" is also ahead of horror benchmarks on Facebook, with over 600,000 fans and 61% of the audience engaged, suggesting there is solid awareness among core horror fans. This puts it well ahead of last summer's original horror successes "The Conjuring" (241,000 fans on release) and on a par with "The Purge" (665,000 fans).
However, the key indicator for horror buzz is Twitter, where big titles average 190,000 tweets in release week: "Devil's Due" is looking slightly weaker here with 135,000 tweets, behind the huge totals put up by last year's biggest horror successes with "Insidious 2" and "The Purge" going way over 300,000 tweets. The seven-day totals for Twitter and Search have been boosted by the viral video over the past few days and Eli Roth's Twitter endorsement, which could see "Devil's Due" surprise many this weekend.
Kevin Hart is looking for success as a lead actor after his stand-up show "Let Me Explain" took $30 million in theaters last summer. The pulling power of the leading men, Hart and Ice Cube, is shown in their Facebook numbers: there are 10.6 million Kevin Hart fans and 4.8 million Ice Cube fans on the platform. Taking into account the 700,000 on the page itself, "Ride Along" has more fans pre-release than Tyler Perry and his Madea character, which appeal to a similar audience.
Hart is also a force on both Twitter and Instagram, where he has 9.6 million and 5 million followers respectively and is pushing the movie to his fans with much more vigor than talent typically provides. While "Ride Along" already has a healthy 90,000 tweets this week, including 'Kevin Hart' in the search terms bumps the movie up well over 100,000 - a benchmark reserved for movies that typically break at least $25 million over the opening weekend. And it sure will. Youtube also looks strong, including two very popular viral videos with over 11 million views: "Kevin's NBA Wish" and "Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, and Conan Share a Lyft Car."
The only underperforming variable is a slightly low Google search volume, but it's not altogether bad. "Think Like A Man" was only a little ahead with 44,000 at release, and had a huge $33.7 million opening. It does lag behind last summer's buddy-cop comedy, "2 Guns," which had 55,000 searches and opened over $27 million, but "Ride Along's" 25,000 searches is still over two times "Madea's" volume.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" is seeking to re-establish a franchise that has had several successful installments, including "The Hunt for Red October" and "Patriot Games," but has been dormant since 2002's "The Sum of All Fears." The lower numbers are explained by an older target audience of Tom Clancy fans and admirers of the earlier movies who are not hugely active on social media. The lower YouTube view count is likely attributable to the trailer debuting on Yahoo Movies, where older users are more active. The strong search number does indicate that the older audience is intending to see the movie.
However, targeting the same audience, "Lone Survivor" should hold strongly after a big opening last weekend. "Survivor's" stats were stronger before opening, with 452,000 Likes, over 60,000 tweets and a search Volume of 219,000, suggesting life might be difficult for "Jack Ryan" at the box office this weekend.
"The Nut Job" is Open Road's first foray into animation, and social performance suggests it's just about set to dislodge "Frozen" as the No. 1 family film at the box office. In a year dominated by sequels building on existing fan bases, Disney's title was 2013's most successful original animation. Original titles typically debut with less than 20% of the Facebook Likes of a franchise movie, so although "Frozen" did not have "Despicable Me" numbers, the film's social stats did foretell its high $66.7 million opening: with over 500,000 Facebook Likes, 18 million trailer views and 155,000 search queries - the key indicator for original family titles as parents seek out weekend entertainment.
"The Nut Job's" stats suggest a performance in the same bracket as "Free Birds," which made $16.5 million opening at Thanksgiving with 178,000 Likes, less than 4 million trailer views and 18,000 search volume. These numbers suggest "The Nut Job" could prove to be this year's "Escape from Planet Earth," which took in $16.1 million this time last year on opening weekend with 27,400 search volume despite low expectations.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of http://www.moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching over 15 million Facebook fans and 7 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 is based in Los Angeles, London and Berlin and works with studios like Sony, Twentieth Century Fox and FilmDistrict.
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 10 million to 20 million views 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. Some titles with common words or phrases like "HER" or "LABOR DAY" are very hard to track in a meaningful way on Twitter. 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.
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