ByJosh Weinstock, writer at
Movies / TV / sports by passion. Public relations by trade. Sharing the good word about MP and the best fan community in the universe.
Josh Weinstock

Moviepilot plays Monday morning quarterback with a big data look at last weekend's box office results.


We’re fascinated by data here at Moviepilot. And as passionate movie fans and former filmmakers, we’re also interested in box office numbers and the money side of the business. Talk around town is that traditional movie tracking is broken. With that in mind, we started to look at publicly available data on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google Search - as well as the data we collect at Moviepilot - in order to have some fun with it and play “Moneyball” ourselves. Every Friday in our “Digital Tracking” column for Variety, we ask ourselves what digital data is telling us about how a movie will perform that following weekend. And every Monday right here on MP, we’ll be looking back on the weekend's wide releases to determine just how predictive our data was - what did we learn?


Tracking - digital and traditional - overshot the family comedy
Tracking - digital and traditional - overshot the family comedy

Moviepilot Prediction: $38 million

BoxOffice Mojo Prediction: $34 million Prediction: $38 million

Final Scoreboard: $25.8 million (3-day), $36 million (5-day)

Quick Hit: Total take lands near our expectations, but 3-day pull sinks from Turkey day plunder.

X's and O's: What we do with social media numbers and data relies almost entirely on comparisons. The more data to compare, the more accurate the prediction.

With Thanksgiving expanding the box office "weekend" to five days instead of three, looking at the data gets a lot trickier, at least for making 3-day predictions. While we expected DreamWorks' "Penguins" to do better business over the 3-day stretch, the total take of $36 million for the Fox release landed close to what we expected. The trick is determining how much action a Wednesday release will enjoy before the sacred Friday rolls around. In the case of "Penguins," plenty of families broke up Turkey day festivities by catching everyone's four favorite Antarctic amigos. That cut demand over the weekend, so the 3-day wound up in the $26 million range.

A closer look at below average Twitter (39,000 tweets) and Search (12,000 Google searches) could have hinted at the slower weekend. While animated features rely on capturing younger audiences first and foremost, they must also engage the parents of said youngsters. The low search output for "Penguins" suggests parents were thinking more about their stuffing recipes than the latest DreamWorks animation. In drumming up a prediction in the high $30's, we wound up in the ballpark on a 5-day total, but there's work to be done here.

Google Search the key to brutal opening for comedy sequel
Google Search the key to brutal opening for comedy sequel

Moviepilot Prediction: $27 million

BoxOffice Mojo Prediction: $25 million Prediction: $25 million

Final Scoreboard: $15.7 million (3-day), $23 million (5-day)

Quick Hit: Low Search was writing on the wall for underperforming star-studded comedy

X's and O's: Once again, figuring out the pattern of the 5-day weekend eluded us here. "Horrible Bosses 2" clocked about $8 million leading into the traditional 3-day, more than we anticipated. But its sub-$16 million pull thereafter was far below our expectations, and search volume might be the reason why.

When compared across to comedy sequels "22 Jump Street" and "Dumb and Dumber To," "Bosses" was clearly fighting an uphill battle. With search the key indicator here, "Bosses" was almost doubled by "Dumber" on Google views - 46,000 to 88,000. With "Dumber" reeling in about $36 million for opening weekend, the Search metric alone would definitely have paced "Bosses" for under $20 million over three days - a mark we should have rolled with. But other factors, like a solid 14 million YouTube views and impressive results from those fellow sequels, teased more.

The key to nailing these predictions is honing in on repeatable and consistent patterns in the data and identifying the best comparable metric for each title, depending on the movie's target audience. The comedy genre has a variety of different targets, but the more we study the numbers, the more it looks like search plays a crucial role in determining box office for titles like this one; especially when the comedy is geared toward 35+ aged audiences. The rule might not apply as much to upcoming comedies "Night at the Museum 3" (another sequel, obviously) and "The Interview," which should resonate more with moviegoers of all ages. Those results will be interesting to compare with what we saw here.


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