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Is social media a leading indicator for box office performance?

the_amazing_spider_man_2-wideThe summer movie season is upon us and in the coming months there will be a lot of discussion about the blockbusters and flops of 2014. We wondered: what can social media reaction to a movie’s marketing campaign tell us about predicted box office performance?

Sony Pictures released the second trailer to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on March 19. We wanted to know what the immediate social media reaction was on the day of the trailer release. Were people excited? Or did it negatively impact propensity to see the film?

Takeaway #1: Fans bemoaned the trailer’s indication that Rhino and the Green Goblin would join forces with Electro to battle Spider-Man.

Many feared this film would be bogged down by too many villains. Those concerns drew comparisons to Sam Raimi’s Spider Man 3, which drew less-than-stellar reviews and a box office showing that precipitated Marc Webber’s reboot. Can this movie effectively handle 3 villains and maintain a cohesive narrative?

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Takeaway #2: The Hollywood allure, combined with the real life romance of Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield enticed fans.

Spider Man fans were excited about the number of big stars in this sequel, including Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti and Sally Field.  The most vociferous were fans of Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield, who were very enthusiastic about the real-life couple.

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Takeaway #3: Fans thought the trailer gave away too much of the plot: “Is there anything we don’t know?”

Both in-depth reviews and top-line comments expressed disappointment that this trailer may have revealed the entire plot line. They pondered whether the reason was that the movie was just really bad.

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Now that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has been released in US for 3 weeks, did this lukewarm reaction foreshadow its box office returns?  The movie earned $92 million during its opening weekend. It then quickly fell behind Neighbors and Godzilla in subsequent weeks. Compared with the previous four Spider-Man movies, The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s box office returns were firmly in the middle of the pack.

So what happened?

It didn’t help that reviews of the movie were fairly harsh, as critics harped on the movie’s inability to smoothly integrate all the characters into the narrative. Some moviegoers defended the movie:

“First off, I would give this film a B-. I don’t think it reaches the heights of Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2” but the critics have judged this movie so harshly and unfairly that their hatred for it is eyeball-rolling and laughter-inducing. While yes some things don’t work and feel rushed, the story is focused and I love the theme of time throughout the film.” – Superherohype.com, 5/3/2014

However, fans still remembered the details of the trailer:

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All in all, this wasn’t the positive word-of-mouth to keep the box office momentum that leads to a blockbuster hit.

While the movie received less-than-stellar reviews, support from ardent fans of Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield remained consistent:

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What can the distributors learn from this before the release The Amazing Spider-Man 3?

While the quality of the movie will remain the key factor impacting box office performance, social media reaction to its trailer provided an early indicator of public reception.

For more about movies and pop culture events, check out Jenny Radon’s posts here >>

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