Does digital data offer indicators that can be used to monitor marketing effectiveness and predict box office success even before awareness turns into intent? We analyzed this weekend's new movies across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google (the methodology behind the numbers is below) over the seven days leading up to their release, when marketing campaigns should be at their peak.

"The Lego Movie"

"The Lego Movie" is set to be 2014's first animated smash hit, following in the footsteps of "Despicable Me 2," "Frozen" and "Monsters University," which were all among 2013's top 10 highest grossing movies. The question isn't so much whether it will make any money, but how much?

On social, animated movies tend to fall into two categories -- franchise and original -- with franchise movies receiving much more social buzz as they build on their existing fan bases. While "Lego Movie" is generally behind "Despicable Me 2" and "Monsters University," which had colossal fan and trailer counts on release, it's fairer to compare it to "Frozen." That Disney film, 2013's most successful original animated title, is now closing on $1 billion dollars worldwide. Prospects for "Lego Movie" could surpass that, given that it's a brand known to generations of kids worldwide and includes well-known superhero characters.

Online, "Lego Movie" is ahead on every count except Facebook fans, where it is only a few thousand behind. "Frozen" opened with over 500,000 Facebook fans, 18 Million trailer views, 40,000 tweets and a 155,000 search volume. However, on search, "Lego Movie" is closer to "The Croods'" 113,000 searches, which set it on the way to a $43 million opening weekend, probably a more realistic target for "Lego Movie" to reach than "Frozen's'" high watermark of $67.4 million during its opening weekend.

Even if it can't quite generate the heat of "Frozen," this suggests that "Lego Movie" could be in for a long and successful run, especially as it has theaters to itself for a month before DreamWorks Animation's "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" opens. High quality animated titles usually have a long box office shelf life thanks to good word-of-mouth percolating through the potential audience, demonstrated by their high post-release search volume. Where horror movies' word-of-mouth and box office returns peak on release weekend then drop off rapidly, revenue for animated titles, as well as search and tweet volumes stay strong for two weeks or more after release.

"Lego Movie" writers and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were also successful in appealing to kids and adults with their last animated outing, "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs," and the key to "Lego Movie" making money is convincing adults. Their interest is normally indicated by Twitter and search counts where "Lego Movie" is on a par with "Monsters University" and "The Croods," suggesting it's building toward a big opening.

Grades for "The Lego Movie"
Facebook B
YouTube A
Twitter A
Search A
Overall A

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