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MJL

Box Office Tracking Demystified

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Introduction to the Box Office

I decided since there are a lot of forum members (and an eventual influx of new members with The Hunger Games, The Avengers, The Dark Knight and The Hobbit coming out this year) who always have questions about various aspects of the box office, we should have a thread that gives some quick and easy answers to some basic questions. I could definitely use help since I know there are members who are much more knowledgeable than myself and I will try and keep the information updated and organized.


Before Release (Tracking)

There are three types of tracking done.

1) Market Research

This is done by studios to get an idea of how interested moviegoers are in a movie and how aware they are about the movie they are offering. They try and break this down even further into age ranges and gender to get an idea on how their marketing is working and what part of the population a specific movie is attracting.

The way these numbers are divided are as follows:

Unaided Awareness - This is when a moviegoer knows a movie is coming up without any prompting. For instance if I was to ask people on the street what movie was opening in the next few weeks and 50% said "The Hunger Games" (I'm writing this on March 19), it would mean it would be at 50% in this category.

Total Awareness - Once they gauge unaided awareness they try and prompt someone by giving them various choices of movies and see if they are aware the one they are polling is opening soon or on the date provided (this is actually termed aided awareness if anyone was wondering). They may list some movies coming up in the next few weeks and include The Hunger Games. If 30% say they know it is coming up soon then there is 30% aided awareness.

How does this factor in to total awareness? Well Total awareness is the sum total of aided and unaided awareness. So, in the examples above, this would mean the total awareness would be 50% + 30% or 80%.

Definite Interest - This is an easy one. This asks if they are interested in seeing the movie at some point (the big thing to remember is they are asking if your interested at some point and not automatically opening week). Now, this could help determine the opening weekend since if you have a large amount of people definitely interested then there will of course be a larger opening weekend.

First Choice - Another easy one. They now ask from a list of upcoming movies which one is their first choice. The percentage that selects the movie in question is listed here. This definitely helps gauge opening weekend numbers more then definite interest, but it still does not directly ask if a person will attend their first choice during the opening weekend.

Once these questions are asked, the results are sorted by gender and if the person polled is either under or over 25. Thus we get Males 25+, Females 25+, Males under 25, and Females under 25.

A four quadrant film just means that all four of these categories are tracking well (thus the movies isn't female heavy...or only has interest from children and young adults).

2) Tracking online ticket sales via Fandango and Movietickets.com

Both of these websites will occasionally release information on how their sales are doing (generally for highly anticipated films with large demand for either opening weekend or midnight showings). This gives us a great indicator on how pre-sales for a movie are doing, but there is one thing to consider. It may show 72% of sales on a day were done by "Movie X" but the actual tickets sold are going to be dependent on the other movies being offered. 72% of sales for a February release when very few studio tent-poles are released is MUCH different then 72% of sales during the summer.

3) MTC and RS Tracking

MTC- This stands for Major Theater Chain. What does this name mean or what chain does it stand for? Actually we don't know. Let me explain. Notfabio who is a poster on HSX.com gets tracking data from one of the major theater chains (ah hah!! MTC) and posts it on their forums but because he is trusted with these numbers, he cannot reveal which chain they are provided by. This could be found here:

http://www.hsx.com/f.../forum.php?id=3

RS - This is the second major tracking service for the US box office. It stand for Reel Source. This is subscription site that provides opening weekend numbers for upcoming releases (but sometimes has a tendency to be less accurate then MTC).

http://www.reelsource.com/ (Since it's a paid service, you generally want to go to the HSX.com link posted above for MTC since RS is posted there once it's out as well)

MTC/RS rule - You may see posters referring to the MTC/ RS rule. What has been seen (over time) is when MTC is predicting a figure much higher then RS does the opening weekend will have a tendency to "break out" and go much higher then even the MTC prediction. This also works in reverse, in that if RS is much bigger then MTC, the opening week is likely to fail to meet even MTC's expectation!

For example: If "Movie X" is predicted by MTC to do 80m and RS to do 60m, it is highly likely for the actual OW to be much higher then 80m (maybe 100m).

Note, I am slowing going to add more information over time and provide various links to make it easier for new members to get a leg up on tracking. Please add any information you would think would be useful to have. Next I am going to give sources to check during the OW to get numbers and then a section on predicting drops.

Also please give as much feedback as possible because I would like this to be 100% accurate and clear.

Edited by MJL
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Good thread. Very informative. Lets not forget that the rule also works in the other way.

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Good thread. Very informative. Lets not forget that the rule also works in the other way.

Yea, good point. Let me add that
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Have we ever gotten a breakdown of MTC's tracking data? I know we used to back at BOM for RS, and I thought at the time it looked fairly... constrictive. I imagine if we got the tracking parameters MTC used, and compared them to RS's, we could understand just why the rule works so often.

Edited by Biggestgeekever
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Have we ever gotten a breakdown of MTC's tracking data? I know we used to back at BOM for RS, and I thought at the time it looked fairly... constrictive. I imagine if we got the tracking parameters MTC used, and compared them to RS's, we could understand just why the rule works so often.

It would be great if that was possible, but I don't know how much Notfabio can release due to his chain being so hush hush.

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Have we ever gotten a breakdown of MTC's tracking data? I know we used to back at BOM for RS, and I thought at the time it looked fairly... constrictive. I imagine if we got the tracking parameters MTC used, and compared them to RS's, we could understand just why the rule works so often.

My guess is that RS and MTC sample over different time periods with RS sampling before MTC. That way, if a movie is gaining momentum, MTC will find it tracking at a higher number than RS and it will likely finish above MTC's score. Same goes for any movie that is collapsing.

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My guess is that RS and MTC sample over different time periods with RS sampling before MTC. That way, if a movie is gaining momentum, MTC will find it tracking at a higher number than RS and it will likely finish above MTC's score. Same goes for any movie that is collapsing.

That is a very interesting theory and yet it makes sense. Still, though, I'm not sure if that is true. I always imagined that tracking took place around the same time, but who really knows except those who provide the tracking data.

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Hi! How much does market research and movie tracking (for example from NRG or Screen Engine) usually cost? And do I get access to all data or can I buy tracking for individual movies?

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