Study: The ‘Twitter Effect’ Does Not Exist

Ipsos OTX study finds that release windows aren’t working, and kids hate 3D glasses

The Twitter effect never was.

The wrong kinds of movies are being made in 3D.

Closing the release window isn’t going to bring back the glory days of theatrical releases.

These are just a few examples of conventional wisdom that have little basis in reality, according to a new study of 24,000 moviegoers by research firm Ipsos OTX MediaCT released at TheGrill conference on Tuesday.

“In this business we spin ourselves into perceptions that aren’t real,” Vincent Bruzzese, president of the worldwide motion picture group, told TheWrap. “They echo through the hallways of this industry, but the facts don’t support the claims.”

In a blow to Twitter fans, the study found that the box-office impact of the social networking service has been wildly overinflated. Many industry analysts have stated that the performance of surprise hits such as “The Blind Side” and “The Karate Kid” is attributable to the good buzz they received on Twitter.

“It isn’t to say that Twitter isn’t popular or an effective social network, but the mantra in the industry about a ‘Twitter effect’ really stands for word of mouth. It is not driven by or consisting of Twitter, and in fact it is one of the least used methods and one of least influential in letting people know about movie opinions,” Bruzzese said.

Despite the advent of the social media revolution, one of the primary sources for recommendations is still face-to-face encounters. Some 48 percent of those surveyed said that they receive the bulk of their information about movies from friends or family. Following that the next most likely source of recommendations are co-workers (16 percent),

Of social-media sites, Facebook exerts more influence than Twitter. Posts and status updates on Facebook account for 11 percent of movie recommendations, according to the survey. Twitter and its much vaunted “effect” only accounts for 1 percent.

When it comes to Twitter, 46 percent of those surveyed said tweets from people they didn't know was unlikely to influence whether they saw a movie. Even tweets from people they did know had little impact on their moviegoing decisions, with nearly 40 percent saying they were not likely to go to a movie based on tweets from people they were friends with.

"Most people who talk about a Twitter effect have never experienced it themselves," Bruzzese said.

When it comes to learning about upcoming movies, commercials and previews are far and away the major source of information for moviegoers. Over 60 percent of those surveyed said that was where they  discovered upcoming releases.

As for windowing, the cratering DVD market and the declines in moviegoer attendance, as the average audience has shrunk by 10 percent since 2002, have led to various experiments with delays on when rental companies such as Netflix can offer new releases. But these don't seem to be extending a movie's theatrical run or adding much in the way of revenue.

Indeed, box-office results are becoming increasingly front loaded, while the average gross in subsequent weekends is declining dramatically. Put simply, the people who want to see a movie are doing it during its opening weekend, while others are waiting until it comes onto DVD or Blu-ray.

“Closing the window isn’t stopping things. VOD is taking revenue and shifting it. There is a net gain of zero, and you’re not adding people,” Bruzzese said.

In this froth of change, theater owners and studios have looked to 3D as the antidote to an increasingly dire economic picture. But they seem to be using the new technology incorrectly, out of a misguided assumption that people want to see dimensionality in the service of story, not simply to have cool things jump out of the screen.

In a blow to those arguments, 74 percent of people surveyed said they want to have thing coming out at them.

“We’ve become disconnected to what moviegoers perceive as adding to the story. In action movies and fantasy they want the effect of something leaping out at them. They’re getting it in 3D horror movies, but they’re not in animated family films,” Bruzzese said.

Another issue is that there is an appetite for 3D in the market, but there are not enough of the kinds of films being made that people want to see in three dimensions.

The top genres that moviegoers want to see in 3D are fantasy (57 percent), action (55 percent), science fiction (52 percent), and adventure (52 percent). Despite that, only 20 percent of the movies made in 3D are from those genres.

One perception that is entirely accurate is that people hate wearing the funny spectacles,  according to Bruzzese. Four out of 10 of those surveyed said that they didn't like glasses.