Twitter Predicts Box Office Success
Social media has become the “biggest, fastest and most honest” focus group, says Fizziology President and Co-Creator.
As a result of the firm's analysis (which predicted that Super 8 would bring in $37 million – just $500K more than the film's opening weekend haul of $36.5 million), Hollywood is looking to the two-year-old company for accurate predictions at the box office.
Over the summer, Fizziology estimated that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides would earn $95 million when it opened. Industry experts had reportedly predicted that the film would earn $110 million. On Stranger Tides' actual opening total was $90.15 million.
Similarly, Fizziology believed that Cowboys & Aliens would open at $34 million. Industry experts assumed it would make $45 million. But when the receipts came in, it was clear that Fizziology's prediction was much closer to reality. Cowboys & Aliens took home $36.4 million.
Unlike the aforementioned experts, Fizziology's data isn't based solely on perceived buzz, studio forecasts, and genre history. While the history of a genre or a franchise does play a role in Fizziology's research, the primary focus is on social media – namely Twitter, Facebook and blogs.
“We take all of those opinions,” says Ben Carlson, President and Co-Creator of Fizziology, “[and] convert it to data and insight” that businesses can use.
Carlson told Benzinga that his company produced a system that actually plugs into the APIs of Twitter, Facebook, and a blog aggregator. As a result, Fizziology is able to measure “what people are saying about theatrical releases, home releases, and even actors and actresses.”
With that information, Fizziology measures the amount of people discussing a particular film or actor, the sentiment of those communications, and examines the success of similar films.
“There are smaller movies that will have a small volume of [social media] but it will be insanely positive,” Carlson said. One such film is Drive. Fizziology anticipated an opening weekend haul of $10 to $15 million. The final total of $11 million was well within that range.
Fizziology isn't foolproof, however. There will always be movies that surprise the experts, no matter how much research they have at their fingertips. Carlson pointed to Scream 4 and Winnie the Pooh as examples. While the former received “tremendous social buzz,” Carlson said that people ultimately failed to act on their perceived interest in the film. Similarly, Winnie the Pooh had a lot of nostalgia attached to it, which helped boost chatter in social media. But when the film was finally released, few moviegoers were ready to buy a ticket.
Carlson said that this is one of the challenges of producing a new film within a pre-existing franchise, especially those with a strong nostalgia pull. “[They] tend to generate more conversation but not necessarily a ticket-buying audience,” he said.
Fizziology is only two years old but it's already profitable. “[It's] something we're tremendously proud of,” Carlson said.
But how does a company profit from social media research?
“We make money on selling a subscription to the data and reports that we create from the data to interested parties, primarily the movie studios for our entertainment offerings,” Carlson explained. “We are also launching in several industries over the next quarter or two. We just launched in one category that I can't say yet, but we have a Fortune 100 client already signed up for that. We have a series of dashboards that our clients get access to where they can see the data, they can see the comparisons, they can see the predictions, and then we'll do custom reports.”
Fizziology's primary focus is on theatrical releases, home entertainment, and Hollywood talent (actors and actresses), but the company has also done some work in TV, music, and video games.
“We're always listening and we have so many search terms pulling information in for all those different categories of entertainment,” Carlson adds. “Part of it is just getting up to speed and having all the horsepower to turn this on, ‘cause we know the interest is there, the information is there, and we're starting to move into those spaces quickly.”
Many Hollywood execs still believe that star power is the key to a successful film. Fizziology's research says otherwise.
“We have a talent tracker that has over 2,000 actors and actresses loaded in, and I can tell you that people do talk about stars,” Carlson said. “I think there's a looser correlation between talking about it and actually taking action on it; i.e., actually going to see a movie based on [a particular star].”
But there is one exception. “I think that when you have an actor aligned with a property that excites that fan base, I think that those are the times when you see some magic happen,” Carlson said.
On that note, I brought up Hugh Jackman and his portrayal of Wolverine. “Yeah, he was perfect for that,” Carlson replied. “People still talk about him. And Johnny Depp and Pirates. Here's a guy who is a beloved actor who found a meaty role that he could do something with…actor and character blend together and it becomes very powerful.”
Finally, Carlson spoke on the biggest surprise hit of the summer.
“[It] was a movie that had very little star power, and that was Bridesmaids,” Carlson said. “There's a movie that over-performed opening weekend. It over-performed on every weekend it held in the market. It was not because of stars. You had really wonderful actresses that people enjoyed and talked about, but instead of knowing their names, it was, ‘Hey, that woman that used to be on Gilmore Girls was a scream in this movie!' They don't even know what her name is.”
Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped Hollywood from repeating its past mistakes.
“I think that Hollywood still banks on talent,” Carlson adds. “It's one of the levers they have to pull on. But it's not something that the box office is dependant upon.”
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