In the summer, nothing beats a trip to the movies. I don’t have air conditioning, so the movie theater provides a welcome relief from the heat and a cheap two hours of entertainment. Not to mention the fact that there is something comforting about a huge blockbuster with a big audience and greasy popcorn.
Alas, the summer blockbuster season is drawing to a close and analysts are saying that the season was something of a bust for the big studios, with ticket sales down from where they were a year ago — I guess G.I. Joe and Funny People just didn’t cut it. Despite the blockbuster flops, it seems that the independent movie industry has been flourishing. Arthouse divisions of the major studios like Fox Searchlight and Focus Features have been rapidly gaining market share over the last few years. Movies from no-name studios have also been gaining broader distribution in the mainstream as social networking and online video have opened up new advertising opportunities.
Given that niche films often attract viewership through online channels/communities you might expect that they would dominate the online space. To find out if this assumption holds, I took a look at searches for movies that were released between May and July of this year. I categorized each movie as either a major studio release (Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal Studios, 20th Century Fox, and Walt Disney Pictures), a major studio’s arthouse release (Paramount Vantage, Sony Pictures Classics, Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, and Miramax Films), or an independent release. I then tracked the search volume for each category from January through July.
Despite the online buzz around Indie flicks, it looks like the big budget studios still win out by a long shot in terms of search volume, but where do their searchers end up? I took a look at the destinations of movie searchers for that same time period to find out.
The chart above shows destination domains of movie searchers. The "official movie site" category represents the studio’s official site dedicated to the film in the search query. A few points stand out:
- Major studio releases are the only films that attract more searches to their official sites than any other pages — perhaps because they have more money for search optimization or simply that they spend more on overall marketing.
- Regardless of the type of film IMDB is attracting a very large percentage of the searches. Major studio arthouse film searches have many more referrals to IMDB than any other type of film. This could be an intentional marketing decision that the studios have made in an effort to make their films appear more "˜indie.’
- Independent film searchers end up on YouTube more often than either major studio arthouse or major studio searchers but they end up on the other large sites less often than the other two film types. This could be because most of their searches send them to smaller sites that are farther down the tail and there is enough variation in the destinations that none of the sites show up in the top 10.
As long as independent movies continue to gain traction on sites like YouTube and Facebook, odds are good that before too long they may be able to rival the large studio releases as far as online presence goes. For now, we’ll have to suffer through as films like Transformers and G.I. Joe top the list both in ticket sales and search volume.