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The Twitter Effect and The Box Office

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Social media has woven its tentacles into the fabric of our everyday lives. Twitter is one such service that drives word-of-mouth better than most. When it came to blockbuster movies in 2009, there were a handful of movies that drew viewers in because of the chatter on Twitter, according to a survey conducted by MovieTickets.com.

Despite the survey, however, it's not all candy and popcorn in the movie executive suite. The Twitter effect is making movie shot callers a bit nervous as the medium can work both in positive and negative ways.

The MovieTickets.com survey polled hundreds of Twitter-using ticket buyers over a two-month period, having them weigh in on Twitter’s effect on their desire to see a handful of 2009 releases. The unscientific survey offered arguably the first real quantifiable data on Twitter’s effect on movie-goers. The company qualified each person that took the survey as an active Twitter user, then asked them the following:

Did Twitter affect your desire to see any of the following films in the past year (check any and all that apply)?

Of the users that said Twitter did have an effect, the top 15 films in order of influence included:

1. New Moon (52%)
2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (23%)
3. This Is It (21%)
4. Paranormal Activity (20%)
5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (19%)
6. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (19%)

7. The Hangover (17%)
8. Star Trek (17%)
9. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (14%)
10. Julie & Julia (12%)
11. District 9 (11%)
12. Angels & Demons (11%)
13. Paul Blart: Mall Cop (10%)
14. Watchmen (9%)
15. Bruno (7%)

Overall, this is an interesting way to see if Twitter made an impact on ticket sales. However, Twitter is still an untamed beast that executives are leery about.

In a story on Hollywood.com, Joel Cohen, the company's executive vice president and general manager, said that "we may be putting too much weight onto the Twitter Effect. But you can see Twitter's benefits as a communications tool that spreads the word about a film, and the negatives have yet to be proven."

Cohen is right. The power of Twitter as it relates to the movie industry is still unproven. Studios are concerned because Tweets spread in real time. If folks don't like a movie, their circle of friends will know about it immediately. While most movies will take the hit when it comes to the attacks made by professional reviewers, consumers often make purchase decisions based on the feedback of friends, family, and colleagues. The quicker negative opinions filter through the social web and through services like Twitter, the more potential there is to damage box office sales.

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  • http://jeffrago.com Jeff Rago

    I think we are just beginning to see the effects of Twitter and other similar social media platforms on all things entertainment.

    On the positive side, producers that have little to no marketing budget now have tools to help bring awareness to their films. Grass roots campaigns have worked well prior to the explosion of social media (ie My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and with this new technology we are going to see more and more of this type of effort paying off.

    On the negative side, if a film doesn’t live up to its pre-opening hype, the word (or 140 of them) can get out to literally millions of people in a matter of minutes. This is bad for the studios as it can significantly effect the opening weekend revenues.

    I think audiences will inevitably benefit from the “Twitter Effect” as it is going to force studios to make better films.

  • http://www.donmartelli.com Don Martelli

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Movie producers need to take advantage of social media mostly because that’s where their target audiences are living online. The downside is obvious. If your movie stinks, you’ll hear about it. But it also works in the other direction as well.