During the past year TiVo has been studying box office performances in relation to the fast-forward rates of movie spots – and the correlation between the two is undeniable. Fast-forward rate is simply the percent a spot is skipped during live plus seven days of time-shifted viewing. On average the fast-forward rates for movie spots, which are traditionally some of the most popular commercials on television, range from 12-17%.
We first took notice of this correlation in September of 2011 when the latest “can’t miss” Sarah Jessica Parker film I Don’t Know How She Does It was set to open. The fast-forward rate almost jumped out of our TiVo Stop||Watch portal with a 20.4% rate. This was unusually high for a theatrical release. Not surprisingly, the box office followed suit opening at #6 for the weekend of September 17, 2011, scrounging up $4.4 million. The Avengers amassed a total of $4.4 million on a Tuesday afternoon… in Des Moines.
As we investigated further we found the theatrical advertising fast-forward rate, prior to a film’s open, provides some insight into box office performance. In short, it can tell you whether the film will be showing on your next flight or not.
The next movie that made an inglorious debut was the remake of multiple remakes, The Three Musketeers. From Summit Entertainment the film boasted an international cast including Orlando Bloom and Milla Jovovich, and yet the initial fast-forward rate during the week of September 19, 2011 was 20%. As was reported in Deadline Hollywood, the fast-forwarding signaled trouble for the swashbuckling epic.
Fast-forward rate can also work the other way too and reveal a hit. A successful fast-forward rate will drop below 12%. Two recent examples are The Hunger Games which scored an 11.8% fast-forward rate in its initial broadcast campaign and The Avengers delivering a 10.3% fast-forward rate. Although expectations were high for these films there are no guarantees. Just ask Warner about Wrath of the Titans, or Relativity with Julia Robert’s Mirror, Mirror or the Tom Hanks vehicle from Universal Larry Crowne or Disney’s John Carter, with an initial fast-forward rate of 17.7% and to-date box office tally of $72 million, for a film that cost $250 million. That probably explains why it is playing on my United flight today, June 10, when the film opened on March 9.
Of course, the system, like the Electoral Congress is not perfect. Films geared towards children and horror movies are very hard to gauge. Animated film campaigns typically air the lion’s share of their spots on kids networks where there is a lower tendency to fast-forward, even in time-shifted programming. While horror films appeal to such a niche genre it is difficult to determine their box office potential.
Movie spots are a critical element in determining a film’s success or failure during the opening weekend, so it is surprising to see how repetitious they have become. Creative campaigns are few and far between, but when they deliver it can be the difference between a strong open and “Today’s feature on our flight will be Larry Crowne Returns.”
Alex Petrilli serves as senior manager of audience research at TiVo. In this role, Alex is responsible for client management and delivery of research projects, and is integral to the product development for TiVo’s revolutionary Stop||Watch ratings service, Alex can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.