Tweets and Seats: Twitter Studies Link to Box Office Success

In Q4 2015, Twitter’s monthly active users declined by about 2 million, to 305 million worldwide, an indication of the social media company’s malaise that has dampened Wall Street enthusiasm. But Twitter just completed new research, using analytics firm Crimson Hexagon, resulting in data it hopes may turn around investors’ lukewarm perceptions. Analyzing tweets for 33 movies released in 2015, from trailer release to post-premiere, Crimson Hexagon came up with results that put a more positive spin on Twitter use.

Although Twitter did not disclose which films were studied, Variety reports that the sample included 15 “over-performers,” with an average box-office-to-budget ratio of 2.5, and 18 “under-performers,” with a ratio of 0.5. Over-performing movies had 150 percent more posts than others, and movies with stars that tweet had a 326 percent jump in “average daily volume of conversation on the service,” compared with movies whose cast or director didn’t have Twitter accounts.

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Twitter head of film partnerships Rachel Dodes calls that “a powerful story to tell,” but there’s no evidence of the actual dynamic between tweeting actors and a movie’s success or lack thereof. Even Dodes admitted that, “there’s no real way to prove there’s a causal link.” Successful movies naturally produce more social media chatter, and there’s no indication that more tweeting push people into theater seats.

Twitter’s study also did not look at movies with budgets over $100 million, because those films already have big marketing budgets, complicating the results of the study.

“Word of mouth becomes more important for lower-budget movies,” Dodes said, who added that Amy Schumer comedy “Trainwreck” and “Straight Outta Compton” from Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were two of the study’s “over-performers.” Both of those movies had talent that tweeted.

Regarding “Trainwreck,” when Schumer, who has 3.6 million followers, released the “Trainwreck” trailer exclusively on Twitter in February 2015, another cast member — NBA star LeBron James — with 27.8 million followers retweeted it. The movie had an estimated production budget of $35 million and grossed $110 million. But, again, no causality was addressed or proven between the budget/box office ratio and tweeting behavior.

“Having actors and other talent promote their movie on social media certainly can’t hurt,” suggests Variety, although apparently nobody knows for sure if and how much it might help. Legendary Pictures chief analytics officer Matthew Marolda goes so far to suggest that, when considering hiring an actor, in addition to watching his previous work and speaking to his agent, the producer should check out his Twitter activity.

“Why wouldn’t you also analyze their presence on Twitter to learn how people discuss them and the tone and tenor of the conversation around them?” said Marolda. “And then assess whether they fit with the kind of film we’re considering.”