My biggest concern overall right now is that this is a one-quadrant film. The only group expressing big interest is under 25 females and this demo is more temperamental… more likely to show and verbalize interest but not to follow through and attend. This lop-sidedness is clear in two ways… the first is social networking.
Tweets about or expressing interest in the film are decent in number (though for comparison, comparing eleven days out from release, The Vow tweet count was three times as high). But Twitter skews to that under 25 demo. So lots of tweets alone, isn't enough. Plus there are some concerns regarding these numbers.
For one, the tweet count was a lot higher after the first tv ads hit but they have declined significantly. Likewise the ratio of positive to negative, while still not bad, has declined. Some of this is to be expected after the initial splash of the ads. And these numbers have started to recover which is good since, obviously, they should continue to increase as we head towards the release date.
But I'm concerned that tweets are still mostly happening in great numbers right when a tv spot airs, indicating people are not consistently thinking or talking about the film. And recently they've been surpassed by another film that opens the same weekend, Think Like a Man, and the gap between the two films seems to be slowly widening. (More on Think Like a Man later.)
Another concern, Zac's twitter can easily create false bounces in tweet counts. His account retweets meaningless chatter about people interested in the film. Then fans retweet that. In theory this is supposed to encourage viral growth, but it is debatable how much these tweet count increases represent new eyes or just the same fans expressing an already accounted for interest (which actually may negatively influence friends if they are annoyed by this chatter).
Also his twitter follower count isn't really exploding like one would maybe hope if he were generating a fanatical interest in the film and himself. I feel a little unsound judging that because I don't have much to compare it to. I wish I knew, for instance, exactly how Channing's twitter follower numbers grew. I can say that the twitter reaction to Zac's appearance on Leno was pretty flat, much like his hair. We didn't even get the typical numerous, "He's so hot," tweets. So something is not connecting.
These potential signs of weakness may mean something or (hopefully) may not . But what really bothers me in the realm of social networking is Facebook.
There are just NOT that many 'likes' and there is just not that much growth on the The Lucky One Facebook which to me indicates the older female demographic (which uses Facebook more than Twitter) is not as interested or engaged. This is a big problem.
What is interesting is I don't even think the younger audience is 'liking' the Facebook page that much. I say that because comparing the Facebook 'likes' from Charlie St. Cloud to this film is eye-opening.
If you compare both films' Facebook 'likes' 14 days out from their respective openings (July 17, 2010 and April 6, 2012 ~5pm), Charlie St. Cloud had 240,000 'likes' and The Lucky One had 158,000 likes. Part of this may be explained by the fact that Warner Bros. did not start advertising on Facebook as early as Universal did. They had been coordinating 'shares' through other Sparks' pages (like for The Notebook or Dear John), but they only just started general ads a few days ago I believe.
But even setting aside over all numbers to examine day-to-day growth, Charlie St. Cloud was much stronger, gaining 'likes' at two times the rate of The Lucky One. This could be attributed to Zac being a hotter commodity in 2010 or even something like Universal's ads were better or more extensive. Either way, such weak growth is not a positive sign.
I wish, again, I had something better and more recent to compare it too, for instance complete numbers on The Vow. I do (randomly) have their 'like' number from ten days before opening which was ~750,000 and one day before which was 908,718. I am also not certain what Facebook's overall inflation rate (i.e. the overall growth of users and rate of their use from 2010 to 2012) is. But at the rate they are going, there is no way The Lucky One's page will get anywhere close to The Vow's number, or even Charlie St. Cloud's number.
I am a nerd, so I made a chart:
I don't think you can make a direct correlation that because The Lucky One's Facebook likes are below Charlie St. Cloud's that the box-office will be lower. But it is discouraging.
The other indication that the film is one-quadrant only comes from the Nielsen tracking numbers. Between two weeks ago and last week, overall awareness and definite interest for the film has increased which is good. The percentage of females under 25 likely to choose this film first to see over any other also increased from 5% to 12%. But male interest is still basically nil and females over 25 grew from 4% to 5% only. I am curious to see how these numbers change this week. At that point I can compare them to the tracking for The Vow.
I do think the IMDb Moviemeter is decently strong for the film. It has shown good bounces in response to marketing. Back in December, the trailer in particular had a stronger jump to a higher number than any other Sparks' trailer. The TV spots, once they finally hit, pushed the number up nicely as well. I was worried it might decline this week, based on the tweet counts declining, but it did stay virtually the same (went from 52 to 48) which is good.
Sparks's ability to promote will definitely help the film, at least compared to Charlie St. Cloud. But while Sparks is a benefit, Taylor Schilling is not that well-known and a lot of people feel she reads too old compared to Zac. Personally I don't see this but the sentiment is there. Also a lot of devotees to the book feel like Zac is just not Logan. And reviews probably won't attract interest because, well, they'll probably be mediocre like most Sparks movies.
But I do think Zac can win people over and I also think Taylor expresses herself well in interviews and is charming, drawing people into her storyline. Plus, imo, they have an endearing rapport together; it was a good idea pairing them for promotion. I think WB is also utilizing their players well having Sparks and Taylor on the ground all over the country leaving Zac to some of the higher profile stuff. That said, WB could've started overall promoting a lot early and maybe thought more outside the box. It isn't as much of a mess as Charlie St. Cloud but The Vow and Dear John were early and very thorough.
Maybe the most important thing giving me hope, the box office this year has been really hot compared to 2010-2011. A lot of movies have been over-performing. If that trend holds, it could really help push The Lucky One several million dollars higher than it would've gone last year.
Back in the day, I explained how a late April date was the best option. I still think that is probably true though Titanic was a big threat and seemed especially daunting after The Lion King over-performed. It is somewhat of a relief that Titanic's opening weekend numbers weren't massive but there is still a chance that next week the film will have good legs, i.e. continue performing well. So the threat hasn't totally passed. Plus the four-quadrant behemoth The Hunger Games is still doing really well with crazy good legs for this type of fan-driven movie.
Even without Titanic or The Hunger Games, there is still a chance of some competition with other female-skewing films.
The romantic comedy Think Like a Man opens the same weekend as The Lucky One. Historically films like this featuring black casts have done well independently of "mainstream" cinema. This is partially because the audience demand is higher than the production of these films and partially because they advertise and distribute in very focused markets. Screen Gems has been pushing those markets hard and the tracking shows it, according to a Vulture article about the film, "Almost 85 percent of black audiences are aware of the film, and a whopping 70 percent have 'definite interest' in seeing it." But on the other hand, "Only slightly more than one in three white moviegoers (37 percent) were aware of the film, and only one in four (23 percent) expressed 'definite interest.'" So, in theory, it shouldn't poach The Lucky One's audience in the usual way overlapping-demographic films might. (The Vulture article, by the way, has a lot of good information on the traditions and challenges of selling this "urban cinema" genre.)
However, as the Vulture article explains, Screen Gems is trying very hard to overcome the hurdle that white audiences think films with black casts are, by default, not for them. And, given their recent success with marketing in general, if anyone can do it, Screen Gems can.
What is certainly going to help them is that this film has been testing through the roof, even with diverse audiences. Shadow and Act at Indiewire wrote first about this and now Vulture added, "Audience research numbers leaked to Vulture show that the film has scored some of the highest marks ever recorded at audience research screenings, with 95 percent favorable at a preview in the largely black neighborhood of Inglewood, California, and 99 percent in the more diverse Long Beach area."
But, that said, I'm pretty sure in the liberal but mostly-white enclave I live in, nobody even has a clue this movie exists. Like the test results indicate, they might like it if they ever saw it, but, like the tracking indicates, they just don't know about it. But if Screen Gems can reach enough of the white audience, it could represent a legitimate threat to The Lucky One's audience share.
Twitter and other indicators suggest a lot of interest (as I said, it has recently has been topping The Lucky One's tweet counts). And while we may not be able to guess how much of an audience share might shift away from The Lucky One, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Think Like a Man wins the weekend with the heat it is generating… even if it can't move outside the black audience.
The week after The Lucky One, The Five-Year Engagement is released. The film is a rom-com which probably increases its appeal instantly, especially to males. Early tweets indicate positive things about the quality (though supposedly, like Apatow films, it could've used some paring down). Its awareness and definite interest are already high, though it is not first-choice for many moviegoers yet. If that changes, that could impact The Lucky One's audience the week prior.
So all that said, lol, I'm not sure I can even guess at how much The Lucky One will take in. Last year, Water for Elephants, with two big stars, opened on the same weekend at $16.8 million. Traditionally these films have averaged around $13-14 million. Overall lately that there has been an upswing in the opening weekend box office, with The Time Traveler's Wife at $18 million, Dear John at $30 million, The Vow at $41.2 million, and that has driven the average up to $16 million. (You can, of course, see a theme there with recurring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum.) Hopefully that upswing can hold. And, again, the box office has been over-performing so hopefully it will here too. But I just don't know. BoxOffice.com has estimated $23 million but I'm not sure I feel like the heat the film is generating is enough to get that big of a win. So I guess, in the end, I'd be happy with even $16-18 million and anything over $20 million, imo, would be fantastic.