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Two Thumbs Up: Using Social Media Trends to Anticipate Box Office Success

ImageWe have entertained ourselves with movies for over a century, but within the past decade another form of entertainment has crept into our lives. Social Media is quickly becoming our favorite past time and a useful tool in analyzing movie insights and trends… So the question at hand: Can Social Media actually predict box office outcomes?

This study will attempt to illustrate a connection between the volume and sentiment in the social space surrounding a film’s release and the performance the film has in theaters.


Socialtyze took a look at the top 10 box office successes as well as the bottom 10 box office failures of 2012. The success or failure of a film is measured by its gross revenue in relation to the cost of production, or more simply put, by profit or loss.

Socialtyze then conducted a social listening study spanning one month pre and post the release date for each of the 20 films. Our goal is to look at the data and determine whether or not the volume and sentiment surrounding the film provides any relationship between the success or failure of the film. All numbers regarding budget and performance were determined using Social Listening data was sourced from Crimson Hexagon.


Anybody who pays money for a social presence knows that volume and traffic toward your page, app or ad are critical metrics when assessing the effectiveness of your media. In this case, the amount of volume a film receives should be partially representative of its box office potential. Volume is broken down as follows:

Box Office Hits ¹

  • Average Mentions ² : 244,000 social mentions
  • Increase in social volume from pre to post release: +70%
  • Opening day average volume: 23,000 social mentions in 24 hours

Box Office Flops ³

  • Average Mentions: 45,000 social mentions
  • Increase in social volume from pre to post release: +17%
  • Opening day average volume: 4,000 social mentions in 24 hours

The volume of a hit is almost 6 times that of a flop, and this is where we start to etch out the difference between a films potential to be a hit and the likelihood it will be a flop.

Key Insight

  • If the film is going to succeed, there needs to be a definite spike in the chatter surrounding the film in the post-release period.
  • Our tracking had Flops averaging 19K mentions in the month prior to release. If your movie is showing similar trending, it is a cause for concern.


The sentiment of the volume is equally as important as the volume itself. What people are saying about a film will ultimately help decide the traffic to theaters. Negativity surrounding a film may not only deter someone from seeing an upcoming film; it may also change someone’s mind who otherwise was going to see the film. For that reason, negativity is looked at as the most pertinent sentiment category. Negative sentiment is displayed below as a share of conversation.

Box Office Hits 

  • Overall Average Negative Sentiment: 9%
  • Pre-Release to Post-Release Date: stayed constant at 9%

Box Office Flops

  • Overall Average Negative Sentiment: 23%
  • Pre-Release to Post-Release Date: 23% to 27%

Key Insight

  • It is safe to say that if the negativity around the film is below 12%4, it has a good chance of success.
  • Adversely, films with a negative conversation share above 20% will have a harder time finding fans.
  • Another indicator in negative performance is the increase in negative sentiment from Pre-release to Post Release. Our internal tracking had flops averaging 19K mentions before release. 

In Sum

While volume is a key factor in determining box office success, the real determinant is the amount of negative sentiment surrounding a film and, more importantly, the rate at which that sentiment increases. What people are actually saying about the movie and the scale at which it is being said can influence others to see the film or not.

This study shows that movies with negative sentiment under 12% do very well while movies over 20% tend to struggle at the box office.

How Can You Use This Information?

Box Office Hits

Opening day is the single highest volume day for both categories so leverage that day accordingly.

  • Media planners:
    • Make sure there is enough budget left over to make an impact on an opening weekend. A little less than 10% of your conversation happens in that twenty-four hour span.
  • CMOs:
    • If your movie has less than 20% negative sentiment prior to the release date; allocate or add extra money to your budget to optimize opening weekend and transition into the second weekend.
    • If the movie is struggling, you may want to scale back and reassess.

Box Office Flops

If your movie is struggling with sentiment:

  • Community managers:
    • Optimize Posting Strategy: Keep fans chatting about the movie by redirecting their attention to the stars, the overall genre of the film, etc.
    • Mix sales messages with more neutral content like trivia posts, quotes and open-ended questions.

The graph below illustrates daily negative sentiment for one of 2012′s biggest flops, John Carter. The red dotted line is the percent threshold for negative sentiment between a flop and a hit.

¹ On average a Hit Movie brought in 136% profits above budget and 78% of its entire budget within the first weekend
² Mentions are defined as any chatter on Twitter or Facebook that specifically talks about the movie.
³ A flop movie only brought in 17% of its entire budget within the first weekend. On average a Flop movie lost 55% of its budget.
Because our examples are so extreme, we applied a 3% buffer to make them more generally applicable.

Socialtyze helps brands gain deep understanding of their fans to drive real ROI through social media. We work to create smarter data and deliver better results for top CPG & Entertainment clients. You can follow our blog at

image: box office/shutterstock


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