Social media and its effect on cinema audiences

Monday, 18 October 2021

Social media and its effect on cinema audiences

Most mainstream film studios and distributors have embraced social media, but what are they gaining from it?

Watching movies at the cinema is an inherently social experience increasingly reflected across platforms and sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Even US trade magazine Box Office Magazine has anticipation and appreciation indexes based on Facebook likes and tweets. The principal reason is to raise awareness as part of a marketing campaign, but looking at two different types of releases use social media can be revealing.

One of the biggest summer releases this year was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which has so far grossed over a billion dollars. As part of an established franchise, it was going to earn that anyway with vast sums spent on marketing across TV, radio, outdoor and online spaces.

However, producer Jerry Bruckheimer is a keen social media user - his Twitter handle is @bruckheimerjb - who likes to gauge audience anticipation and reaction to his films. His active Twitter conversation and Q&A sessions during the release back in May not only provided valuable feedback for him and the studio, but also helped spread the word about the film and answer people's questions. It probably didn’t affect the box office total that much but it almost certainly gave the studio valuable data for their other projects.

Of course, not every film can be a summer blockbuster, so how does being active on social networks help productions on a lower budget?

Senna is a documentary about the late Brazilian F1 driver Ayrton Senna made on a tiny fraction of what Pirates of the Caribbean cost. Part of the challenge with a film such as this is to just get it seen, so producers Working Title and director Asif Kapadia used various social media platforms to do this.

They had an official account Twitter account for the film (@SennaMovie) and the director was also an active user (@asifkapadia), meaning they could track and interact with audiences.

YouTube was also a valuable research tool for the actual movie and they eventually used their own channel to help promote the film with trailers and various clips. Their Facebook page became a place where people could find out more and discuss the film, whilst the producers also used the newly launched Google+ to connect with fans and audiences.

Perhaps the most remarkable statistic is that Senna overtook Twitter colossus Justin Bieber earlier this year as the F1 documentary out grossed Never Say Never at UK cinemas.

Obviously a film still has to strike a chord with an audience but online tools have made it a lot easier for films to be discussed and heard.

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