Black Movies Thrive at Box Office, But Tracking is Inaccurate
J Thoendell stashed this in Film
Jeff Clanagan, CEO of CodeBlack Entertainment, believes tracking of movies with black lead actors is inaccurate because of outdated techniques. “Studios are using the same methods that they have for the last 15 years, which is already hit and miss — and it’s more miss with black films,” he noted. “What we say is, ‘You can’t track black.’ ” But the underestimating isn’t reserved only for films with black actors. Movies geared to churchgoers (“God’s Not Dead”) or Latino moviegoers (recent success “Un gallo con muchos huevos”) have significantly outperformed estimates.
There are issues, too, with how studios and analysts read tracking. Privately, distribution and marketing executives say that traditional tracking is better for assessing how films play to broad audiences, as opposed to targeted demographics. Predicting the inclinations of a specific band of prospective filmgoers requires drilling deep into the data.
Rentrak senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian affirms that pre-release tracking has become difficult due to shifts in audience composition and behavior. “The traditional norms that have been ingrained in tracking — such as 18- to 24-year-old males being the dominant group — are less applicable,” he noted. “Audiences are demanding films that represent them.”
Traditional tracking makes it easier for studios to underplay box office expectations, the better to tout how an opening weekend smashes projections.
Analysts believe that social media offers a more accurate snapshot of sentiment within narrower audience groups. “It’s not just one platform, but the totality of the conversation across social channels and the intensity of the conversation that allows us to be less surprised,” said Ben Carlson, co-creator of social-media trackers Fizziology. “The world is changing, and the buying power of different demographic groups is changing. They want more diverse stories to be told.”