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The Success of "The Nun" Was no Miracle. And Vault Knew it in March. But What's Next?

David Stiff on September 13th, 2018

It's been another weekend with another miss by traditional movie tracking folk. The Nun, the fourth instalment of The Conjuring series, surprised many to become the most profitable and popular instalment of the franchise with a weekend take of $53.5 million.

So, why did tracking, which Variety reported sat at $32 million miss the boat again? Our clients caught the trend in March via our predictive analytics platform nearly six months ago. Every metric, from story to consumer demand, had showed us that the movie would be a franchise topper. So why did conventional movie tracking have such a shaky read on the audience?

2018: The Year of the Franchise Topper?

The Nun isn't the only franchise instalment of 2018 to become a runaway hit and franchise topper. Who could forget The Black Panther, the first Marvel origin movie to top $200 million?

The Conjuring series has been a nice money maker. Each instalment has grossed more than $35 million opening weekend. But none of them ever cracked the mid $40s and certainly none broke the $50 million mark.

So what happened?

Tracking Real Consumer Demand

Like consumers of mobile phones, athletic shoes, and music, movie goers react to story messaging in different ways. They delve deeper into the story, watch trailers, discuss with friends and more—before and after they see them in theatres.

Our analytics platform is designed to follow and analyze online movie consumer behavior. Using our deep learning artificial intelligence, we distill the data into signals and we follow the level of demand for 24 weeks in the future. This means the platform at any given time has data on over 70 movies. This data is built to alert our clients to breakout movies and struggling titles alike.

When we first started tracking The Nun on March 21, 2018, we saw that it was performing way above Anabelle: Creation, which had grossed $35 million over its first weekend. Out of the 70 movies that we were tracking on our platform, The Nun held twice the demand levels of Skyscraper that was slated for a July release.

Taking a Better Look at Your Competitors

For too long, the entertainment industry has measured its movies against other movies in a rather random fashion—as if they've plucked them out of thin air. These competitors or "comps" are both a blessing and a curse. If the comp is indeed similar to another movie, it can help project results. But if the comp is not a good comparison, the resulting business decisions can be faulty as well.

For example, if a talented executive suggests that this faith-based movie is similar to Passion of the Christ but needs only one-tenth the budget and will make similar returns, then investing in the movie is a no brainer.

Comps can provide great context. They're helpful, yet fundamentally flawed. Why? Because in reality, comps are just 3-4 movies. By analyzing against a few chosen comps executives are taking a 2D approach. Analyzing a title against all movies in play, allows you to take a true 3D approach.

What Does the Future Hold?

Vault AI picked up The Nun as an all-time-high franchise winner on March 21, 2018. So what are the future titles to watch? Which movies should be moved to new dates to make way for the future block busters?

  • New release White Boy Rick is tracking as one of the most in-demand titles from a story perspective. Audiences are not looking at White Boy Rick as a Matthew McConaghy movie, rather they are highly attracted to the story being presented by Studio 8.
  • 18 weeks before its launch, Glass is pushing ahead. Right now it is tracking more than 10% higher than Split at the minus 18 week mark. What's more, Glass holds a 60% demand market share for the weekend before it opens, the week of its opening and the week after its opening. This means Universal executives will have almost all the attention of movie goers across a three-week period, while other titles will have to fight of their lives to get noticed.
  • This type of demand is also seen in the upcoming October remake of A Star is Born.
  • Meanwhile, Aquaman, still fifteen weeks out from release, is tracking a little lower than Justice League, as audiences focus more on Jason Momoa, the main actor, than on the actual story. Executives will need to focus their promotional efforts around the story for it to be a breakout movie.