You may think you can predict how good a movie is going to be based on just the trailer, cast, and producers involved… but the answer is still more complex than you’d like. On the industry side, tons of market research systems via surveys, tracking polls, and other analytic services attempt to check in with the health of a particular release ahead of its debut in theaters. As it turns out, all these factors are more complicated than we need to make things. If studios wanted see how their upcoming summer blockbuster will do, all they had to do was Google it.
In a Google AdWords post by Andrea Chen, Google’s Principal Industry Analyst, Media and Entertainment, the company introduced a new report titled “Quantifying Movie Magic with Google Search” that explains just how Google can be used to predict the future box office success of any upcoming movie.
Looking at the financial performance and Google searches relating to 99 of last year’s most popular movies, Chen explained that even the ways in which people search for information about movies can help suggest whether a particular movie is headed towards success. “During slower box office weeks, we see more searches on generic terms (such as ‘new movies’ or ‘movie tickets’),” Chen writes, adding that searches on weeks leading up to big tentpole movies, people tend be more specific. “For tentpole film releases, marketers have the ability to capture more interest by advertising on title-related search terms, whereas for non-tentpole releases it is important to advertise on more generic terms.”
When people search for specific movies can be important as well. “In the seven day window prior to a film’s release date, if a film receives 250,000 search queries more than a similar film, the film with more queries is likely to perform up to $4.3M better during opening weekend,” Chen explains. “When looking at search ad click volume, if a film has 20,000 more paid clicks than a similar film, it is expected to bring in up to $7.5M more during opening weekend.”
However, it’s the searches further ahead of release that may be most important for predicting whether a movie will be a hit or a bomb. “While we see more search volume in weeks closer to the release week, the Google and YouTube search patterns four weeks out from the release have the strongest link to moviegoer intent,” Chen writes.” At four weeks out, trailer search volume on Google coupled with both the franchise status of the movie and seasonality can predict opening weekend box office revenue with 94% accuracy.”
If nothing else, this report suggests that Hollywood has a head start not only on knowing what the audience is looking forward to watching ahead of time, but also on how to save on costs in future. Since the Google service is free, perhaps studios will start spending less on trend analysts and box office watchers.