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?

EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS, 20th Century Fox

Exodus won the weekend but couldn't meet lofty expectations
Exodus won the weekend but couldn't meet lofty expectations

Moviepilot Prediction: $33 million

BoxOffice Mojo Prediction: $29 million Prediction: $26.5 million

Final Scoreboard: $24.1 million

Quick Hit: Biblical saga not spared from slumping 2014 box office, as generally reliable Search metric overvalues Exodus' might.

X's and O's: Here in Tinseltown, the weather is finally starting to match a frigid box office that took one more hit this weekend. With numbers that pointed toward a $30+ million open, Fox will have to hope for a strong holiday holdover to deliver on Ridley Scott's Moses adaptation "Exodus: Gods and Kings."

For a title clearly targeted to older audiences who crave the sprawling period piece drama, "Exodus" had the social media chops to deliver a nice box office boon. It all starts with Search when you're talking about the 35+ age demographic, and "Exodus" tallied more 150,000 searches leading into its Friday release. When compared across to comparables "Noah" and "300: Rise of an Empire," we landed on a box office of around $35 million. What we didn't notice was the decline in Search over the seven days prior to release. While "Noah" and "300" surged before their open, the search activity on "Exodus" was relatively quiet, with just 61,000 searches in the final week before open. Essentially - "Exodus" was losing steam, and the all-important Search metric was the writing on the wall.

But still, a sub-$25 million release tells more than just diminishing Search. Those who did search the Christian Bale-starrer would surely have noticed a unsightly 28% Rotten Tomatoes score. The target audience here weighs critical acclaim more heavily than your Twitter/YouTube - social savvy and young - base. So that surprisingly negative critical response - especially when coupled with an already dismal box office year - spelled a less than heavenly box office for this latest take on the Moses Exodus story.

TOP FIVE, Paramount

With best per-screen among wide releases, Chris Rock has reason to smile
With best per-screen among wide releases, Chris Rock has reason to smile

Moviepilot Prediction: $9 million

BoxOffice Mojo Prediction: $8.2 million Prediction: $9 million

Final Scoreboard: $6.9 million

Quick Hit: Acclaimed comedy might not have hit our $9 million prediction, but still turns in solid effort behind aggressive Twitter presence.

X's and O's: Where "Exodus" was fighting an uphill battle thanks to a rough critical response, Chris Rock's "Top Five" enjoyed the opposite effect. "Certified Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes, "Top Five" relied on one key metric to move the social media needle: Twitter.

With dozens of recent comparable titles to learn from, we've figured out that Twitter is the most telling metric for the urban genre. And with that in mind, Twitter was where we focused our attention in locking in a box office prediction for the weekend's most acclaimed release.

Proving a keen understanding of the landscape and the importance of reaching fans on social, Rock did a Twitter Q&A which led to an impressive spike in tweets the day before release (December 11th). The problem? Not every tweet generated was "Top Five" related, and indeed many of the social engagement Rock generated didn't necessarily translate into "butts in seats." To put this into context - on Wednesday (prior to the Twitter Q&A), our expert data team was leaning $6.5 million for opening weekend. Come Thursday night after the Twitter-sphere explosion, we were up to $9 million.

The lesson here: it's important to cut out the non-relevant chatter when studying social data. Buzz "around" a movie and buzz "about" a movie are two different things, and must be weighed accordingly. Our $9 million prediction was obviously high, but with a per-screen average at more than $7,000, "Top Five" packed theaters better than any other wide release this past weekend.


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