The Twitter Effect

Tama has a link to a recent Reuters article on the supposed “Twitter effect,” the idea that some summer movies have seen their box office deflated or inflated by the immediate word-of-mouth responses of moviegoers posted to Facebook or Twitter.  These real-time posting can very quickly shape audience consensus, and in the case of Bruno, may have led to a dramatic one-day decline in box office.  And given that many people on Twitter have hundreds or thousands of followers and friends, that simply multiplies the reach of an idle comment that might, in the past, have remained in the local mall or multiplex.

That being said, the article seems to take the Twitter hype completely at face value.  I wonder if the article overstates this effect to some extent, especially when it implies that “Ashton Kutcher has raised his profile and that of his production company” through his tweets.  He did receive a lot of attention, especially during his rivalry with Shaq to become the first person to reach one million followers on Twitter, but how that affects his marketability is less clear.

Still, I’m inclined to agree with Universal’s president of marketing and distribution, Adam Fogelson, who argues that even negative tweets can be positive in that they reflect a level of passionate argument and debate about movies, even if that debate is confined to 140 characters.


  1. Annie Petersen Said,

    July 31, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

    I’d say that as far as stars go, it contributes in a rather unmeasurable manner — at least unmeasurable as far as specific profits — to bolster the star’s perceived authenticity, a point I made in a Flow article from May on star and celebrity tweeting (and ghost-twitterers).

  2. Chuck Said,

    July 31, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

    That would be my sense, too. I remember mulling over your Perez Hilton/Tom Cruise argument when I was writing my book and never quite coming to a satisfactory conclusion. Ultimately, I decided that cause and effect were mixed with Cruise’s decline and Perez’s vendetta/mockery. But I also think it’s easy to overestimate Twitter’s “impact.”

  3. The Chutry Experiment » Rainy Saturday Links Said,

    August 22, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

    […] Sragow’s recent entry in the “Twitter effect” discussion. Although I expressed some skepticism about the role of Twitter in effecting box office totals (among other things), there is a case to […]

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