Using Analytics to Predict Hollywood Blockbusters

Analytics helps us to connect pieces of research, identifying the right elements to create a unique experience. “Jurassic World” movie is the perfect case study on how research, facts and behaviors can support a multibillion dollar franchise.

Not Another Sequel

We all went ”ugh… please-not-another-sequel!” when we heard the rumor of a Jurassic Park sequel. Apparently, we were wrong. Against all odds and rumors, the dino-action sequel literally ate box office records, with a staggering 208.8 million domestically this weekend, making it the highest grossing opening weekend film of all time.

As of today, Mr. T-Rex is the richest dinusaur in the world. 1.672 billion USD box office worldwide. Raawrr!! Grossing a total of $652,270,625 in USA and $1,019,442,583 internationally. Roughly $600 millions are from Asian markets, China and South Korea leading in Asia; UK, France, and Germany in Europe and finally Mexico and Brazil in Latin America respectively.

The industry is changing the way they do business and technology is doing its part. Analytics tools had proven to be successful, making connections between pieces of research, identifying facts and behaviors. Jurassic World is relevant example of this The audience ‘body language’ was pretty clear: On that weekend, the re-post rate for Jurassic videos on YouTube was 45 to 1 (the average is 9 to 1). The trailer on the official Universal channel got 66.6m views (multi-channel networks money well invested) Twitter almost broke: #JurassicWorld peaked at 63K. The “conversation” for the film was very high and very positive on social media that weekend. Thousands and millions share trailers with their community, on multiple social channels. And that’s intent of purchase…like a kiss. Plus, no big sports events or soccer matches on TV that weekend. Add shirtless Chris Pratt and school calendars and TV were packed with dino-theme curricula. Finally, people just love seeing Pterosaurs munching on tourists! Go family-friendly entertainment! Jurassic World broke box office, scoring the biggest opening weekend in history with a sweet $511.8 million in tickets sales worldwide, outdoing even Harry Potter.

Timing is everything

“Jurassic World” was shrewdly positioned as the June blockbuster to beat, ceding April to “Furious 7” and steering clear of “Avengers: Age of Ultron’s” May release. After “Tomorrowland” flopped over Memorial Day, there was some gum-flapping among box office analysts about whether Universal erred in not putting “Jurassic World” over the four-day holiday. In retrospect, it was the perfect move. The box office, which was coming off of three consecutive lackluster weekends, needed to cool down before it could heat up again.

“You could see this coming after a number of films that didn’t live up to expectations,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “There was just this hunger for a big summer tentpole film.”

The studio benefited from timing of another sort. Over the past decade and a half, the fourth “Jurassic Park” saw various filmmakers and screenwriters, such as “The Departed’s” William Monahan and “I Robot’s” Alex Proyas, come on board before getting tossed aside after failing to find the right creative direction for the film. The tortured development worked in “Jurassic World’s” favor, giving it distance from “Jurassic World III,” which is generally considered to be the series’ nadir, and lending the franchise a feeling of freshness.

Premium formats are prime

The Indominus rex, basically a T-rex on steroids, demanded to be seen on the biggest, widest, most souped-up screens possible. That meant that “Jurassic World” got a major boost from premium large format and Imax screens, along with 3D showings. The sequel took in 48% of its domestic opening weekend receipts from 3D screens while setting new high-water marks for Imax and private label PLF screens.

Those formats were in their infancy when “Jurassic Park III” was in theaters — 3D was still a novelty and Imax was reserved for nature films.

“I use my kids as a bit of a barometer,” said Anthony Marcoly, president of worldwide cinema for 3D-maker RealD. “They’ve seen the ‘Jurassic Park’ movies before, but they’ve seen them on TV or DVD. They haven’t had a chance to see a ‘Jurassic’ movie on these big [premium large format] screens or in 3D. People wanted to be brought into the world of ‘Jurassic’ and to see it in a grand fashion and just be drawn into the story.”

It also helped that Trevorrow talked up the virtues of seeing “Jurassic World” with all the extra bells and whistles on promotional videos and by appearing before screenings at the Imax TCL Theater in Los Angeles.

“This is a shared experience,” he told the crowd at one of these events. “It’s why we go to the movies.”

The exhibition industry has taken its knocks for not keeping up with the digital revolution that has upended the entertainment landscape, but “Jurassic World’s” success with tinted specs and sprawling screens demonstrates the lengths that theaters have gone to differentiate their experience from the one found in the living room or at the keyboard. Times have changed, of course, but some of it’s for the better.

Dinosaurs ripping apart humans = appropriate for children of all ages

It’s been 26 years since “Jurassic Park” first illustrated the dangers of bringing velociraptors back to life, and in that time one generation of film fans has come of age and another has emerged. That means that a group of moviegoers who were first weaned on popcorn pics with that first film have grown up and were eager to introduce their sons and daughters to the magic of a T-rex rampage.

To familiarize a new group to the pleasures of the park, Universal reissued “Jurassic Park” in 3D in 2013 in conjunction with its 20th anniversary. It also primed the pump in a nice piece of corporate synergy, hosting a special presentation of “Jurassic Park” last week on NBCUniversal Networks that included interviews with Pratt and Spielberg. The film and TV stations share a corporate parent in Comcast.

The PG-13 rating made the prospect of seeing pterosaurs treat tourists like birdseed something of a family event. That resulted in an opening weekend crowd that was 39% under the age of 25, a demographic that hadn’t been born or was barely verbal when the first film debuted.

“We’re getting everybody and that includes parents with kids,” said Carpou.

Hollywood take note. That’s how you build a blockbuster.

Making Sense of fragmented audiences

Audiences consume and interact with information in unexpected ways, so you have to be tuned in real-time. Consider what’s going on in the analytics and reports, and out of them. Data is generated and delivered by the same audience you are trying to connect, from video channels, chat, social media and tweets. Paying attention to the ‘vibe’ or body language cues can go a long way. Use them to your advantage. Analytics can be tricky, but they are just the tip of the data iceberg. Keep your cool, be yourself and be responsive. Pick your actions accordingly and maybe it could be the start of an unforgettable relationship.

Yesterday afternoon, Marvel Studios showed some chivalry by releasing a poster (a tweet by president Kevin Feige) congratulating Steven Spielberg and the Universal Studios team, Director Colin Trevorrow and golden boy Chris Pratt for beating the hero team, since their lost their title as the previous record holder. With these numbers, we will be seeing more Jurassic (probably without ‘The Park’) in the future.