2017 Social Media Heat Map

What online buzz tells us about the year ahead

There are currently over 120 wide releases scheduled for release in 2017, among them numerous big-budget tentpoles hoping to propel their respective studios to the promised land of record-breaking revenues. Traditionally, pundits look at factors such as franchise history, sequel performance, and stars’ recent box office power to gauge their forecasts. Today’s analysts, however, are increasingly looking at how social media metrics from companies like Twitter help influence a film’s box office performance ahead of their release. Our staff here at Boxoffice Pro has been tracking the Twitter presence of each film slated for wide release in 2017. Here’s what the early numbers are telling us about what’s in store:

 

So the first thing that the above table exposes is that films with trailers released within the month feature prominently, as expected. Two examples are Ghost in the Shell and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. The other is that there is a bias in the data toward films released in the first half of 2017, simply because most of the films released toward the end of the year don’t have many marketing dollars invested as yet to raise their profile.

The Big Winners

According to our Twitter analysis, Beauty and the Beast has taken an early lead among 2017 titles. The film ranked first across all three metrics we reviewed for our November data (median tweets, average tweets per day, and total tweets). The animated original was an instant classic that amassed over $400 million worldwide (over $700 million if adjusted for inflation); the new release appears to have a good chance to better those numbers at the box office, making it a shoo-in for a top 10 position by year’s end, much like Disney’s 2015 live-action remake of Cinderella.

Given the lukewarm reviews of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, pundits worried that perhaps the shine would wear off of the DC Comics franchise. Wonder Woman, however, has proven the naysayers wrong. The film has generated huge interest on Twitter and came in second across all three measured data points behind only the aforementioned Beauty and the Beast. Unlike rival Marvel Comics, DC Comics has had few characters make it to the big screen and even fewer to have fulfilled their potential. Wonder Woman will attempt to join Superman and Batman, who are currently the only DC characters to have ever seen an opening north of $55 million—not including Suicide Squad, which we’re counting as an ensemble film.

Transformers: The Last Knight ranks third in our assessment, in what appears to be a return to form considering the last film in the franchise, Transformers: Age of Extinction, seemed to experience a slight slip by being the only entry in the series to fall under the $300 million mark domestically. If Twitter performance is any indication, The Last Knight might very well lift the latest Transformers entry back into the $300 million club domestically.

The Big Surprise

Go, go, Power Rangers! Power Rangers was a staple on TV for much of the 1990s and generated quite a following among kids and teens. Even though that success translated to merchandise sales and TV ratings, it never did quite make a triumphant leap to the big screen; two feature films based on the property were unable to combine for $50 million domestically in the mid-90s. Early reception for this latest entry, however, has been nothing short of spectacular—finishing seventh among all 2017 films in the chart above. With many of its original diehard fans now in the workforce, with spending power and children of their own, this franchise might have matured enough to be on the cusp of a breakout.

Closing Comments

Many films not included in our results will no doubt have huge box office returns. We can confidently expect big business from titles such as The LEGO Batman Movie and Thor: Ragnarok, but these titles have yet to ramp up their marketing campaigns in earnest or, as in the case of The LEGO Batman Movie, prove unsuitable for accurate Twitter tracking since they are targeting kids as their primary demographic. Children tend to have weaker numbers in general on social media for obvious reasons. Twitter offers a unique and different take on long-range tracking, and although it shouldn’t be seen as a crystal ball, it provides a valuable tool that complements traditional prediction methods.

Editor’s Note: A previous edition of this story cited World War Z 2 as being a 2017 release. Although Paramount has not officially delayed or removed it from their calendar, the film has yet to begin production and will certainly not be released this year.

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Alex Edghill

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