Over the past few weeks we’ve heard that Twitter is gaining on or beating Google in the issue of real-time news search. While it makes sense for news in terms of viral growth that Digg’s fiefdoms can only dream of, look at the Iran protests and MJ death stories, I would never guess that it could impact the wallet spend when it comes to the box office. Granted Siskel and Eibert could make or break movies with a flip of the thumb, the impact was still not immediate.
In the old days — like, until yesterday — movie studios judged the success of their big pictures by how much they grossed on the opening weekend. But in the age of Twitter, electronic word-of-mouth is immediate, as early moviegoers tweet their opinions on a film to millions of “followers.” Instant-messaging can make or break a film within 24 hours. Friday is the new weekend.
That appears to be the lesson from the studio estimates issued on July 13 for the weekend box office. Brüno, the Sacha Baron Cohen docu-comedy in which an Austrian fashion journalist shoves his flamboyant gayness in the faces and other body parts of unsuspecting Americans, won the weekend with $30.4 million, a bit above most industry expectations for an R-rated provocation whose star was unknown to the mass audience until his Borat became a surprise hit in 2006, earning more than $260 million at theaters worldwide on an $18 million budget. Yet Brüno‘s box-office decline from Friday to Saturday indicates that the film’s brand of outrage was not the sort to please most moviegoers — and that their tut-tutting got around fast. Brüno could be the first movie defeated by the Twitter effect.
This brings into question whether film critics will be the next form of traditional media to fall victim to the Internet age. It also brings up the question of if the influx of Twitter-SPAM and paid Tweets can pub up a movie and make it a success. Imagine if Paris Hilton wanted to pay folks to tweet that her 2-hour conversation with Brittany Spears is worth seeing.