Best Picture, Best Trailer? What Trailer Sharing Reveals About Oscar Nominees

Love them or hate them, film trailers are difficult to avoid. Previously, if you wanted to skip the trailers before the movie, all you had to do was turn up to the cinema a little late.

Not so these days. With the proliferation of trailers across a variety of social media and online video platforms, studios (and fans, alike) can distribute film adverts directly to viewers in a manner that creates massive viral moments around these teasers. With research indicating that people who share movie-related content on social channels are 6x more likely to purchase a ticket, it’s clear why these short clips mean big business.

Trailers have become a mini-industry all of their own, with hosts of websites and YouTube channels catering to viewers’ thirst for new content. In 2014, the “Big Six” movie studios generated 3.4 billion views of promotional content, ranging from Disney’s ‘Frozen’ Sing-Along to audacious prankverts to conventional trailers [source: Unruly’s ‘Movie Promos’ White Paper]. While the most shared trailers tend to feature explosions and superheroes punching each other, how does trailer-sharing look at the more highbrow end of things? In fact, how about Hollywood’s glitziest night of the year: the Oscars?

With the 87th Academy Awards coming this Sunday, we aggregated stats on trailers for all eight films nominated for Best Picture. Read on to discover the most successful Best Picture trailer campaigns of the year, as well as what lessons we can learn from these findings.

Best Picture nominees in order of aggregate trailer shares

  1. American Sniper – 1,115,5358 shares
  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel – 717,838 shares
  3. The Theory of Everything – 429,555 shares
  4. The Imitation Game – 265,737 shares
  5. Boyhood – 244,388 shares
  6. Birdman – 119,463 shares
  7. Whiplash – 173,970 shares
  8. Selma – 113,688

Best Picture nominees ranked by box office takings

Movie box office

Top 5 Best Picture Trailers

  1. Clint Eastwood’s AMERICAN SNIPER Trailer – 548,983 shares
  2. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL Official International Trailer HD – 521,911 shares
  3. The Most Lethal Sniper In US History (American Sniper Facebook Trailer) – 405,609 shares
  4. The Theory of Everything Official Trailer HD – 317,169 shares
  5. American Sniper – Official Trailer 2 [HD] – 179,063 shares

So what can we glean from these results? Here are Unruly’s five insights:

  1. Blockbuster Box Office Means Blockbuster Trailers

If trailer shares determined awards winners, then Sunday’s contest would have an easy winner. With nearly 1,150,000 shares since the trailer’s release in early October, Clint Eastwood’s Iraq War biopic easily trounced the competition, with runners-up spot going to The Grand Budapest Hotel at 717,838 all-time shares.

Considering ‘American Sniper’s success at the box office, this is hardly surprising. The film has recouped over $300,000,000 so far, making it by far the most lucrative best picture nominee in this year’s roster.

  1. The Nomination Sharing Bump

In theory, the Academy Awards are an awareness-raiser, a spotlight to shine on the best and brightest in film from a given year.

So how does being nominated for Best Picture affect a film’s online engagement? Research gathered through Unruly Analytics demonstrates a significant bump in sharing for six out of eight Best Picture nominees in the week after nominations day in mid-January. Tracking the most shared trailer for each film, the average sharing bump during this period was 132%, with Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything jumping by an incredible 219%.

The only films not to benefit from the nomination bump were Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

trailer graph

  1. Stylistic Considerations

There’s no accounting for taste, but a highly shareable trailer is its own kind of art. With new teasers flooding the social web everyday, studios need to produce trailers that stand out from the crowd. So how do our Best Picture nominees hold up?

As well as its handsome box office takings, American Sniper’s sharing success can be attributed to its unconventional and gripping trailer. Rather than The Imitation Game or Selma’s attempt to hastily summarize an entire picture, Eastwood’s gives us intense, singular focus on one scene and is all the more successful for it.

The trailer for The Grand Budapest similarly jumps out of the pack, with its humorous staccato rhythms and Wes Anderson’s inimitable visual style on full display. Film trailers can be tremendously homogenous and so these off-the-wall choices seem to benefited the sharing pattern of these films a great deal. Oscar nominees might do well to take notes from The Devil’s Due, which created massive viral waves by releasing a prankvert in lieu of a trailer. I’d personally love to see a range of prestige prankverts.

  1. Boyhood Falls Behind

As awards season gathers momentum, Oscar frontrunners become quickly apparent. Anyone who’s been following critics’ picks or other voting bodies knows the smart money is on Richard Linklater’s generational epic Boyhood.

Salon’s Andrew O’Heir called it “quite unlike anything else in the history of cinema” and the sweepstakes boffins seem to agree, with Las Vegas odds sitting comfortably at 2:5 to win. In terms of trailer shares, however, Boyhood has trailed in an unimpressive fifth place, with only 244,000 total shares across various spots.

This could indicate that the film appeals more to critics than it does to sharers of social content, or simply that the trailer doesn’t match up to the film in terms of quality. In any case, ‘Boyhood’s trailers gained a 153% boost in sharing post-nomination.

boyhood

  1. Selma Shut Out?

The lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations created notable outrage this year, with Selma’s perceived exclusion becoming a rallying point for the ceremony’s critics.

The film, which dramatizes a crucial battle in the American civil rights movement in 1965, had been tipped for nominations and came away with only two: Best Picture and Best Original Song.

In terms of sharing, ‘Selma’ similarly underperformed, ranking bottom of the table with only 113,688 aggregate shares.

The reasons for this are unclear: with $48,000,000 domestic gross, it’s the fourth most financially-successful Best Picture nominee. In a year when socially-conscious advertising loomed large, it seems strange than an ‘issue film’ like Selma shouldn’t receive a similar boost.

 

In conclusion

While the Oscars voting is done behind closed mansion doors, the popularity of viral content is written large across the Open Web. While the sharing of a Best Picture nominee trailer probably has more to do with its box office than its awards potential, the internet has clearly cast its vote. We’ll have to wait until Sunday night to see whether the Academy’s selections match up with the web’s.