From Alison Brie to Zach Randolph, and everything in between.
This month’s Wired Magazine cover story took a fascinating look at how social media presence is affecting the way cable companies are looking at their programming. As I tried to crudely quantify in previous articles, social media can have a similar effect on the decisions movie studios have to make as well. As an addendum to last week’s post on the most financially and critically successful films of 2012, I looked up the amount of Facebook likes (the most readily available social media data I can think of) for each of these films in order to see if there was any correlation between Facebook likes and any of the film’s characteristics from the previous post. Here’s a graph showing FB likes (in thousands) per movie sorted by Rotten Tomatoes score:
Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 was removed as an outlier, since they have one official page for all five movies and thus have accumulated over 17 million fans, almost double the next film (Hunger Games). Hooray for Young Adult novels! Several movies still listed here use shared Facebook pages for their sequels, giving an unfair judge of how many people actually liked Men in Black 3, Taken 2, Underworld: Awakening, Skyfall & Bourne Legacy. As far as non-shared pages go, Hunger Games was followed by Ted, The Amazing Spider-Man (technically not a sequel; still insulting), Dark Knight Rises, The Vow (WHAT), Think Like A Man (Ooooookay) and Mirror Mirror (Yeah.)
The lowest shown is Parental Guidance with only 25K fans, followed by This is 40 & American Reunion. The two movies with the 6th and 7th LEAST Facebook likes, with only about 178 and 190 thousand likes each, are Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook, respectively. Two of the consensus top five movies of the year have less Facebook likes than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This begs the question: what does enhance a movie’s social media following? Why do people “like” pages on Facebook? Certainly, if one wishes to project a fine taste in cinema to his or her online acquaintances, one would lean towards making public his or her affection for Argo (291K), not Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection (650K)? Then again, most active Facebook users are young, impressionable adults, who would be swayed by flashy, big budget popcorn movies. I ran the Facebook likes against various variables from the last post in an attempt to figure out which part of these movies’ success creates Facebook buzz. I took out the sequels with the shared Facebook pages listed above, since those who liked Taken enough to see Taken 2 would probably un-like it and burn their Facebook page if they knew they were endorsing that turd as well.
Side note, Think Like A Man has 2.7M Facebook fans, Battleship has 1M. Chris Brown was in the former and Rihanna the latter. That is all.
Theory #1: The better the movie, the more Facebook likes it’ll have.
Conclusion: False. In a perfect world, this would be accurate. Django Unchained would have all the Facebook likes and Snow White & The Huntsman would be banished to Pinterest. Alas, Facebook is no meritocracy, as the r-squared (lengthy explanation here– simply put, the closer to 1 the greater correlation between 2 sets of data) produced is insignificant (.0232) and does not indicate a relationship. Eyeballing the chart above confirms this.
Theory #2: Big-budget films come with big advertising budgets. Lots of ads = more followers.
Conclusion: False. R-squared again shows an insignificant number (.0208). On one side, low-budget films like Magic Mike, Project X & The Lucky One all have relatively small budgets but are on the high end of Facebook likes (over 1M), while big-budget movies like John Carter, Wrath of the Titans & Prometheus have less than 600K likes.
Theory #3: The longer the amount of time the movie has been out for, the more people have seen it, and thus more Facebook fans.
Conclusion: False. How does this not work??? It’s been 443 days since Contraband was released, and 101 days since Jack Reacher came out. Both are action-thrillers with Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 51 and 62%, respectively. Contraband has 555K likes, while Jack the Reacher only has 159K. The difference? Jack Reacher hasn’t been released on DVD yet. I think if this one discounted for films that haven’t been released on DVD/On Demand yet, it would show more of a relationship than the virtually nonexistent one it currently shows (.0423).
Theory #4: Sequels/reboots have a built in fanbase, and will always have more Facebook likes. The later in the franchise, the more likes it should have.
Conclusion: False. I thought this one was a lock, but the R-squared factor is nearly zero. The eighth (!) Madea movie led the charge with only 650K likes. Unfortunately for fans of originality (of which, as this inconclusive relationship shows, there are many), the average gross earnings of the sequels/remakes/reboots/requels was $175M (and 53% on Rotten Tomatoes), while the original/adapted screenplays averaged $97M (61% on RT). This does not bode well for the future of cinema. In 2030 when Jaden Smith is playing Nick Fury in the Avengers reboot we’ll be begging for a fresh adventure, like Looper provided last year.
Theory #5: The more money a film made, the more people saw it, obviously increasing the chances of people liking it on Facebook.
Conclusion: Ehhhhh. The R-squared for this relationship is .2752, more significant than the others, but still not a conclusive correlation. I can get behind any set of data that puts the Red Dawn remake near the bottom. If this included DVD/On Demand sales, the correlation should be even stronger, as more viewers should be directly related to likes (or, in the case of Battleship, have the opposite effect). See the chart below for a visualization.
It’s a bit disheartening for movie fans to see that in generating Facebook buzz, quality of movie is not as important as gross earnings. On the other hand, “good” movies produce hundreds of online articles and discussions up through awards season, which are not factored in here. For every blogger bashing Wrath of the Titans there were probably twenty discussing the controversy and excellence of Django Unchained or Zero Dark Thirty.
Again, only the 57 highest grossing movies of 2012 were included in this study, and counting Facebook likes is a very primitive way to measure a film’s social media presence. However, I am just 1 guy, and these are the best resources I have at my disposal. If you have any cool sites that provide data that would be relevant to this kind of thing, let me know @kramerkram.