Expert Thoughts

Social Media Buzz Can (Kind of) Predict Box Office Success

(Photo via Getty)

(Photo via Getty)

Twitter has analyzed a whole mess of data about what people are saying there about movies to see what it says about what movies are going to be popular at the box office.

(Image via Twitter)

(Image via Twitter)

Among the interesting data points in the post are that, according to Twitter, people have somewhere around 200,000 movie-related conversations daily.

Now here’s where it gets interesting: According to the data the movies generating the most tweets in October were Annabelle, Gone Girl, Dracula Untold, The Judge and Fury. But here’s the top five movies from October:

  1. Gone Girl
  2. Annabelle
  3. Fury
  4. Alexander and the Terrible…
  5. Dracula Untold

That’s actually a pretty close overlap, with 80% of Twitter’s list also showing up on the box office list. But let’s talk for a minute about that remaining 20%…

The Judge is exactly the kind of movie that you can see people talking about. It had a high-profile cast, there were lots of ads and other marketing running in regular rotation and generally lots of things for people to talk about. But for whatever reasons (a critical drubbing may have something to do with it) it flopped pretty badly, especially given the caliber of the cast.

Alexander and the Terrible… on the other hand is just the kind of movie no one is going to be “buzzing” about. A seemingly gentle PG-rated family comedy with some people you kind of like in the cast, there weren’t a whole lot of points for conversations to latch on to with the exception of a very short story being turned into a 1:21 movie.

That means that just as you might think social media may be a great way to predict box-office (or any other kind of) success, there’s still a fair helping of guess work in there. Or at least it can’t be the *only* thing used. There needs to be other work that’s put into making predictions and prognostications.

It can’t go without saying that this post — and the data that’s shared in it — is aimed fairly obviously at movie studios and marketers as a way to encourage them to get more of their talent to participate in Twitter chats, get the studios themselves more active in promoting movies and encouraging conversations and, of course, spending money on promoted posts to help spur those conversations.

But just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. There’s obviously, at least based on this, a case to be made for that kind of participation. And there are plenty of other reasons why it’s a good idea. It just means that 1 (social media participation + 1 (social media conversation) doesn’t always equal 2 (box office success). There are factors that go beyond that simple equation, just as there always are.

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