“There’s an incredible amount of information in the public domain and most of it is expressing opinions and recommending things,” said Steve Canepa, vice president of the global media and entertainment industry at IBM. “Media companies (need) to figure out how they can embrace this digital connected world they’re operating in.”

There are large sums of money at stake for the studios, which can spend $100 million or more to market a movie. That inefficiency was made clear this year, when Walt Disney Co. took a $200 million write-down after its science-fiction movie “John Carter” flopped in theaters despite a vast marketing campaign.

While the large studios have long relied on telephone polling to understand whether audiences are responding to their campaigns, the hope now is that social media can provide similar insights into a far larger number of people in an efficient manner.

Currently, however, relatively few executives are paying attention to social media sentiment, Canepa said. IBM recently surveyed media and entertainment chief marketing officers and found that only 35 percent track third-party reviews and just 42 percent use consumer-generated reviews to help shape marketing strategies.

“This is a new area the studios are still trying to figure out,” he said.

‘Building intelligence’

With social media analytics still in its infancy, there is a growing field of firms launching to take advantage of potential growth.

MoviePilot, a Berlin startup that won favor with venture capitalists and raised $7 million earlier this year, launched a social media agency at its Venice office in October.

The core MoviePilot website displays custom fan pages for future releases, and similar to FilmBreak, allows users to follow a forthcoming movie’s progress. MoviePilot users connect to the site with their Facebook profiles, so they are also offering up data about their preferences and interests.

The new companies are monetizing their businesses in different ways. FilmBreak, which has secured less than $500,000 in startup capital, will generate revenue by distributing movies digitally and to on-demand platforms. The company has a deal with home entertainment distribution company GoDigital, a distributor of films to platforms such as Hulu and cable video on demand. FilmBreak will refer movies to GoDigital and get a cut of the sales.

MoviePilot sells the data it collects, and the company’s social media agency is now working with studios to determine how best to use such information.

“At this stage, all the studios believe in digital marketing,” said Amy Elkins, executive vice president at MoviePilot and a former marketing executive at MGM Studios. “It’s (now about) building intelligence around how they should spend their money.”

For example, if next year’s release of “Texas Chainsaw 3-D” were to be especially popular on social networks with, say, high-income professionals in big cities, an adjustment could be made to spend more money to target such consumers.

Rather than simply blasting marketing materials to huge numbers of people, the idea has evolved to targeting select audiences, Elkins said.

Reaching the right people is similarly important for smaller movies, such as those listed on the FilmBreak website. The listing service is free and intended as a way to build relationships with filmmakers.

Once a visitor clicks a button to hype up a project on that site, he or she can be sent regular updates via email by producers, with the end goal being to create a fan who will eventually pay for a theater ticket or a digital download.

“You need to be able to connect with people in a meaningful and interactive manner to get them interested in your product,” said movie producer Weintrob. “That pays off with your fan base who will take a journey with you.”


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