“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” takes on Johnny Depp‘s “Black Mass” at the box office this weekend, and is expected to triumph, thanks largely to social media.
Facebook likes and Twitter statistics for the dystopian YA sequel have been off the charts since May, occasionally beating the social media games of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Jurassic World,” two monster franchises for their respective studios.
On Monday, Facebook likes for “Maze Runner” reached nearly 3,000,000, averaging more than 8,000 likes in each of the previous two days. In May, when BoxOffice.com reported its vigorous social media activity, the film had 2.5 million likes.
“‘Maze Runner’ can definitely take off if the core fan base is really happy and others are encouraged to see it based on strong social media attention,” said Phil Contrino, Senior Analyst at BoxOffice.com. “Teens can boost a film really quickly or kill it fast. This one feels like it’s being boosted.”
That boost is expected to vault “Maze Runner” well over the critically-acclaimed “Black Mass,” which is tracking for an opening of $21 million.
Other teen movies with similar social media followings include “The Hunger Games” movies and the “Divergent” series, which have enjoyed a strong social media fan base due to the popularity of their books. “Maze Runner” looks poised to follow this trend.
And the film’s cast, too, are all very active on social media, with most claiming over 200,000 followers. Dylan O’Brien, the film’s lead protagonist, has over 3.81 million followers on Twitter and 189,000 followers on Instagram. Will Poulter, comparably, has 287,000 followers on Twitter and 41,300 on Instagram. And Kaya Scodelario has 611,000 followers on Twitter and 586,000 on Instagram.
“I think the combination of social media and the young actors is a huge part of it tracking so high,” said Shawn Robbins, another Senior Analyst at BoxOffice.com. “Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario attract a lot of young people, and I think the plot itself … even though the post-apocalyptic thing has been done to death by a lot of franchises, that’s what’s popular right now.”
The rest of the film’s casts boasts a nearly equally impressive Twitter game: Ki Hong Lee (260,000), Katherine McNamara (205,000), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (196,000), Giancarlo Esposito (118,000), Nathalie Emmanuel (105,000), Aml Ameen (72,800), Alexander Flories (24,600), Dexter Darden (24,400), Rosa Salazer (22,600), Jacob Lofland (9,895), Lili Taylor (6,456) and Barry Pepper (6,084).
“The younger cast members tend to interact with their fans,” said Robbins.
However, one of the only adults starring in the film, Giancarlo Esposito, has a more sizable social media following than half of the cast, many of whom are significantly younger. This could be due to his success in “Breaking Bad” and “Once Upon a Time,” and could attract older moviegoers to the film.
“It’s possible, thanks to ‘Breaking Bad,’ he has a lot of people interested in what he’s doing right now,” said Robbins. “However, with ‘Black Mass’ coming out this weekend, most adults will go see ‘Black Mass’ instead.”
Also in May, BoxOffice.com reported that the first “Scorch Trials” trailer prompted 118,443 tweets, which made it the ninth-largest trailer debut of the year. Comparably, the initial trailer for the first “Maze Runner” film yielded only 21,801 tweets. From May 15 to May 21, there were over 100,000 more tweets about “Maze Runner” than tweets about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” or “Jurassic World.”
On Monday, the film generated over 33,849 tweets. In the last two days, over 65,000 tweets were posted each day, far outpacing “Star Wars,” “Spectre” and “Straight Outta Compton” to claim the title of most tweeted film during that span. “Black Mass” elicited about 5,900 tweets on Monday.
Further, “The Scorch Trials” itself has a following of 346,000 users on Twitter; “Black Mass” has just 6,539. No doubt, the fact that the movie has a younger target audience and cast distinguishes it from the weekend competition.
“Maze Runner” is not only projected to beat “Black Mass” this weekend — it’s on track to make history. If it rakes in anything above $42.5 million (the total “Hotel Transylvania” booked last year), “The Scorch Trials” will break the record for biggest movie opening in September.
If it opens to current projections — $48 million — it will blow that previous record out of the water, making it only the third film in September box office history to top the $40 million mark. (The other was 2013’s “Insidious Chapter 2.”) It would also eclipse the first movie’s opening, which made $32.5 million in 2014.
Taking inflation into account, however, “Rush Hour,” which made $33 million in 1998 ($57 million adjusted to today’s dollars), and “Sweet Home Alabama” ($35 million in 2002, $49 million today) would place one and two, respectively. Without adjusting for inflation, they rank third and sixth.
To see why social media is playing an important role in the opening of “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” see the cast’s Twitter followings below.