The Twitter Effect and Hollywood’s Top-Grossing Summer Movies

Last week, The Baltimore Sun ran a story about Twitter and its effects on box-office, both positive and negative. On Sunday, the Risky Business blog posted a comment about how Twitter had for the first time positively affected a film’s debut (Inglourious Basterds), and today, AdAge takes a look at the Twitter buzz surrounding the five top-grossing movies of the summer.

A chart shows the number of Twitter posts per day for Transformers, The Hangover, Star TrekIce Age 3 and Harry Potter 6. Potter received the most attention but the Twitter peaks correlate with where each movie stands in regard to gross, notes AdAge.

Box-office watchers say recent dramatic swings (see Bruno, G.I. Joe) may be caused by Twitter and other social networking sites that can blast instant raves — or pans — to hundreds of people before the lights come up.

Studios trying to gauge the impact of tweets, and how they affect the longevity of a movie, are suddenly faced with the need for a new data stream and an algorithm with which to decipher the info.

Was the 39% box office drop of Bruno from Friday to Saturday a case of disappointed moviegoers tweeting? Or did a limited fan base for Bruno exhaust itself on that first day?

“I think Twitter can’t be stopped,” Stephen Bruno, the Weinstein Co.’s senior director of marketing, told the Sun last week.

“Now you have to see it as an addition to the campaign of any movie,” he said. “People want real-time news and suddenly a studio can give it to them in a first-person way. The blogs have to go to our feeds for the latest trailers and reports.”

Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia, told the paper that studios are worrying about a time when “people will be twittering during the opening credits — and leaving when they don’t like them.” But he also warns, “the next step [for the Twitter Effect] is for studio marketing to manipulate it.”

The Weinstein Co. did a good job of doing just that by packing the Basterds premiere with folks with big Twitter followings. Sarah Silverman, for example, tweeted: “just made me smile forever” and Tony Hawk added: “another Tarantino classic.” recently ran a poll in which 88% of respondents said Twitter had no effect on them. Joel Cohen, the company’s executive vice president and general manager, told the Sun 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 theorized that Twitter may have a larger influence on the success of smaller films than it does on major studio releases.

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