Movie studios open their ears to online buzz
By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood is increasingly relying on Twitter and Facebook to gauge popular buzz on movies even before they come out, in a move reflecting the power of average filmgoers over once-mighty film critics and detailed surveys.
Studio executives are finding it's important to track the instant reactions of ordinary people to their new offerings, and companies are springing up to provide tools that both monitor and analyze buzz on social networking sites.
In other words, buzz is the amount of chatter or interest in a movie, which can increase awareness of the film and help drive box office sales.
In the past, movie studios relied heavily on focus groups, audience surveys and reviews by film critics to anticipate how their films would fare at the box office.
But recent months have underscored the influence of online word-of-mouth in a world where a Twitter comment can help break or make a movie.
"The writing is on the wall much quicker than ever before," said Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of Nielsen Online's digital strategic services, which is one of the largest such services working with studios.
"If you know the dog's not going to hunt, at what point do you start to get more efficient and say, 'OK, we're not going to spend everything, maybe we save the marketing budget for DVD,'" Blackshaw said.
Online buzz drove "Paranormal Activity" to a $7.9 million box office in the U.S. and Canada last weekend, setting a record for a movie playing in less than 200 theaters. The low budget horror flick is now on its way to wider release. Continued...