Berlin-based Moviepilot, the startup that scouts info about upcoming films very early on in their development cycle and then uses the information it gathers via that process to help studios build buzz later on, today announced a $7 million Series B funding round, led by DFJ Esprit, and including T-Venture, Grazia Equity and VC Fund Creative Industries Berlin.
Moviepilot is one part news and rumors site, and one part market research engine for movie studios and producers. By requiring that its user community sign in to the site with their Facebook credentials, Moviepilot can glean key demographic information that studios can then use to do their pre-launch marketing, much of which is concentrated on the two months immediately prior to a movie’s release. Moviepilot CEO and co-founder Tobi Bauckhage told BetaKit in an interview that that kind of data can make a crucial difference to a film’s first 48 hours, which often determine whether a movie will become a success or a flop.
“If you take a look at the industry, it’s extremely, extremely dependent on the first weekend when a movie comes out,” he said. “I don’t know any industry that is so brutal about this first market entry phase. If you don’t succeed with a movie in that time, you don’t have a chance to recoup your money.” Moviepilot looked at who attends the first weekend, and found that it’s often the same two to three percent of the population of any given country, giving those individuals an outsized influence on a movie’s success.
“Now with social networks and internet technology, you have the chance to build up over the course of months insights about who actually is interested in movies and will go on first weekends, and share news about the movies and so on,” Bauckhage said. “You move from a supply driven market to a demand driven market.”
By feeding the hype cycle and monitoring how users are reacting, Moviepilot can then work with studios to help them plan their pre-release marketing campaigns for maximum effectiveness. For instance, a studio may be aiming a film at a particular demographic, say males aged 18-30, but Moviepilot sees that there’s high engagement on their site with that same title among women aged 18-30. Studios can then retarget their final marketing push leading up to release, in order to focus their efforts on the group that Moviepilot has found will be most receptive.
Other sites like Harry Knowles’ famous Ain’t It Cool News site have dealt in early rumors and speculation about pre-production and pre-release movies, but Moviepilots is the first to try to harness that hype mill to provide actionable insights to studios using big data analysis. While Moviepilots has already formed productive partnerships with big American studios like Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Disney and others, Bauckhage said that the new round will help the company open its LA office and devote more staff, time and resources to sales and promotion efforts in the U.S.
Moviepilot depends on an editorial staff to edit and source content, and operates in many ways like an online news outlet. That it partners more closely than others with the companies selling the subject matter it covers may not sit well with journalism ethics professors, but the site isn’t purporting to be a news outlet in any strict sense. And leveraging the rumor cycle is something companies have always done to conduct informal market research, so turning it into an efficient engine with measurable results via Facebook’s social graph is a clever move by this German startup.