What’s in a Trailer View? Do Viewing Records Even Matter?

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Pixels trailer
A scene from Pixels
Photo: Columbia Pictures

By the end of 2014, the trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey was the most viewed trailer of the year with a reported 93 million total views. Second was the trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens with 81 million after it was reported earlier in the year the Star Wars trailer had amassed 58.2 million views in its first four days, besting the current record (at the time) held by Avengers: Age of Ultron, which finished 2014 with an estimated 78 million online views. What does all this mean? Well, one thing is for certain, it means if your movie gets a lot of trailer views it’s likely to make a lot of money. This is good news for the likes of Jurassic World and Furious 7, but what of the recent press release from Sony announcing the trailer for Pixels was the studio’s #1 trailer launch of all time?

Sony announced the trailer for Pixels generated 34.3 million views worldwide in its first 24 hours online, besting the previous record held by The Amazing Spider-Man 2 of 22 million streams. How did it accomplish this? Well…

To reach the record, the studio utilized the enormous digital footprint that Sony commands worldwide and the remarkable social media reach of its cast including Adam Sandler, Josh Gad, Kevin James and Ashley Benson. The studio leveraged official channels as well as social pages for Sony, Sony Pictures, Sony Pictures international markets, Sony Electronics, and Sony Rewards, as well as the Xperia Lounge on Sony Mobile and Sony’s Times Square Billboard. Worldwide viewership of the trailer continues to grow as support extends to PlayStation, Crackle, Sony Retail Stores and Sony International Television.

Does any of this mean anything? Honestly, I think it shows the power of social media in the case of Pixels while I think it also shows the power of brand recognition when it comes to everything else. Does this mean Pixels is going to be some kind of big studio hit? Maybe, but it’s one thing to simply be something people are seeking out compared to something where the leveraging of social media is absolutely necessary to create the same kind of awareness. It’s smart, and definitely raises awareness, but these trailer reports seem to do little more than give another reason to get a movie’s title back in front of consumers.

The most interesting trailers from last year that made the end of the year top 20 were the less than successful movies such as Dracula Untold and Sex Tape. I can understand how a trailer for a movie called Sex Tape would get a lot of online views, but Dracula Untold? What was the appeal that found people watching the trailer, but staying clear of the film?

Obviously the hope here is to figure out which movies will be successful and which won’t. Below is the top ten trailers of 2013 according to Zefyr’s 2013 report and these are looking at YouTube views. I have included the number of views along with their final position at the 2013 domestic box office.

  1. Fast & Furious 6 – 105.7 million (#9 at domestic box office)
  2. The Hangover Part III – 51 million (#30 at domestic box office)
  3. Iron Man 3 – 41.3 million (#2 at domestic box office)
  4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – 33.5 million (#1 at domestic box office)
  5. Man of Steel – 33.1 million (#5 at domestic box office)
  6. Thor: The Dark World – 25.9 million (#12 at domestic box office)
  7. Star Trek into Darkness – 21.2 million (#11 at domestic box office)
  8. Fast & Furious 6 – 17.4 million (#9 at domestic box office)
  9. The Wolverine – 15.3 million (#22 at domestic box office)
  10. Grown Ups 2 – 14.2 million (#21 at domestic box office)

Films in the domestic box office top ten not featured on that list include Frozen, Despicable Me 2, Gravity, Monsters University, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Oz The Great and Powerful. Obviously reasons for the absence of a couple of those titles could be due simply to when marketing for each film first began and their subsequent release dates, but looking at trailers does not give us the full picture. I also don’t know how Zefyr compiles all their information, but I do see just one instance the Frozen trailer is now up to 28.3 million views.

So what have we learned? Eh, not much, I just like looking at numbers. I mean, all this information really is, is just another opportunity to talk about the movies, which is all studios want in the first place… right? Hell, let me help a little more. Here are the trailers for Pixels, Star Wars and Fifty Shades of Grey (my own personal version) once again… see how it works?